tv U.S. Senate CSPAN March 10, 2011 12:00pm-5:00pm EST
a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from alaska. a senator: i ask that proceedings under the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. murkowski: thank you, madam president. last week i spoke on five of the steps that we need to take to increase domestic oil production, and today i'd like to take a few moments to speak more broadly about our nation's energy policies as a whole, what the proper goals for sawch a policy should be -- such a policy should be and the false choice between increased domestic production and reduced oil consumption. energy policy has repeatedly been brought up as an area where this congress and this president can find common ground, knowing that something actually needs to be done, however, is no guarantee that is will be done. but the truth of it is, most of us know that we can improve in the area of energy.
and with oil prices at above $100 a barrel, the price at the pump heading towards $4 a gallon, we need to develop a coherent national energy policy to find that common ground. that need has taken on even greater urgency. so -- so what makes for good energy policy and how can we ensure that agreement is finally reached on meaningful energy legislation? i think we should have essentially five goals and those five goals are an emergency that is abundant, that is affordable, that is clean, diverse, and domestic. now, i -- i realize that these words, especially in exings with with -- in combination with one another, don't lend a clever acronym or a catchy slogan. maybe we need to rearrange them and figure out what word we can make. but if we follow these, if we follow these as our guiding principles and make sure that
our legislative efforts reflect each and every one, i believe that genuine progress can be within our reach. so let's start with the concept of affordable energy because that's certainly the most relevant topic right now. times like these serve as a wake-up call as to how important energy, and particularly affordable domestic energy, how important this really is to our nation. energy provides the base of everything that we do, not just to heat and power and light and transportation, but the food that we eat, the clothes that we wear -- everything. whether for a server farm or for a soybean farm, abundant and affordable energy is really the foundation for a robust economy. but, unfortunately, there seem to be those who feel that the key to clean energy is to make energy scarce and expensive. we don't need an experiment or an act of congress to know that
an economic recession reduces emission and a depression, of course, would even do more so. the current price of oil is a stark reminder that while making energy scarce and expensive may, in fact, reduce our emissions, it's an even more effective way to crush an economic recovery. that's not good for us. the president has proposed that we should raise the taxes on oil companies, but in the middle of tough economic times, the american people are not open to those policies that will increase their energy costs. there is a better path that would do more to bolster our energy security, more to create jobs, more to generate government revenues and equally, more to reduce our deficit. instead of punishing one industry to promote another, let's use our tremendous reserves of conventional
resources which account for more than 80% of our energy supply. let's use these to fund the next generation of clean technologi technologies. let's prove up and produce our resources and then put these revenues towards whether it's tax incentives, whether it's additional research, whether it's studies at our universities, you name it, but let's -- let's use these wisely. speaking specifically to the regulatory burdens on energy, i think we all recognize that the clean air act has made our air cleaner and certainly improved our health. carbon monoxide, sox, nox, a host of other pollutants have largely been removed from smokestack and tailpipe emissions, and there's more that we can do. i think we recognize in terms of the regulation of h.f.c.'s and other greenhouse gases which, while they emit a much lesser quantities, they certainly have
potent greenhouse effects. but the clean air act is not the proper legal framework for regulation of carbon dioxide, which is emitted in huge quantities by almost every human activity, whose effect cannot be confined to a nonattainment area and which, in itself, is not harmful to health. all of us, madam president, want a cleaner energy supply, but the approach taken over the last several years seems to have been one of all or nothing instead of the all of the above approach. and i think it's been counterproductive. we need to seek out and accept policies that will lead to steady progress. now, we don't yet know the best way to provide energy that is clean and abundant and affordable, but what we do know is that there is a whole -- a whole myriad of opportunities.
we have oil, natural gas, we've got wind, we've got solar, we've goa hydro , we've got geothermal, coal, biofuels, fission, fusion. just naming the types of -- of energy and the subcategories within energies, that's a whole floor speech in and of itself. and whether it turns out to be fireflies that you collect in a bottle or something that we -- we simply haven't even imagined yet, we don't know what source or what combination of sources will actually turn out to be best for america. and that should be cause for those of us here in congress to be extraordinarily careful in trying to predetermine what sources should either win or lose. we're always talking around here about we need to steer clear of picking winners and losers, and yet that seems that's what we do all the time. a diversity of energy sources
provides the best proving ground and insurance against overreliance on any one source and a healthy economy provides the best demand for the cleanest sources available. winston churchill once said, "on no one quality, on no one process, on no one country, on no one route and on no one field must we be depend hent. safety and certainty in oil lie in variety and variety alone. now, winston churchill was talking about oil but his words are just as applicable to our need for diversity in all of our types of energy. now, finally, the need to make our energy domestic to the greatest degree possible is something that we've all known. we all know that we need to do this, but we have failed to do anything about it for decades,
and it shouldn't take an upheaval in north africa to convince us that sending billions of dollars a day out of our economy to countries that -- that are not our friends, that this is a bad idea. we know it's a bad idea and yet we continue year after year after year. we -- we need to focus on two parallel tracks here -- increased domestic production and decreased consumption. we absolutely, absolutely should reduce our dependence on oil. in -- in the early days of the automobile, we saw a wide range of experiments in inventors and entrepreneurs who strove to find the best approach, and i think again we're on the verge of this -- this renaissance in vehicle technologies where we explore electric vehicles, we
look at biofuels, fuel cells, efficient diesels, natural gas, propane, other approaches, but for right now, for today, madam president, we use 20 million barrels of oil a day, and for the vast majority of uses, there is no imminent substitute. i said last week in my comments that for the sake of our national economy, for the sake of our nations security, and for the sake of the world's environment, we should produce the highest possible percentage of the oil that we consume here at home. domestic production is currently being stifled by those who engage in what -- i don't know, i guess you would call it magical thinking, that -- that if only, if only we would stop producing oil here in the united states, then the world's need
for oil is going to go away. well, you know, the skittles are going to fall from the sky, you're going to have unicorns prancing in the street. it's not real. the harsh reality is that our foreign oil dependence contributes to conflicts where young men and young women die or come home without limbs, and we wreck our economy. there will -- there always will be future conflicts in the world, whether in the middle east or elsewhere, and as a nation, we will have to decide on our proper role in each. we can and we should do everything possible, however, to eliminate foreign oil dependence as a strategic consideration. and, madam president, none of this is due to america running out of oil. in -- in alaska, my home state, we have estimated reserves in
excess of 65 years' worth of persian gulf imports. so, again, in alaska alone, one state, we have got reserves in excess of 65 years of what we take from the persian gulf. there are also, of course, tremendous reserves in other states and of course offshore. for decades, opponents of domestic production have argued that we shouldn't produce more because we're not going to see this come online for years to come. if 20 years ago or even ten years ago we had ignored those who had said that anwar was sun sun -- unacceptable because it would take a decade to develop, we would now at this point in time be enjoying another million barrels of domestic production per day, but we said ten years ago, 20 years ago that, oh, it's
going to take too long to bring that anwar oil online, and so we just ought not do it. well, look where it puts us today. opponents also like to say that the policy of increased domestic production will have no immediate effect on oil prices. you don't even want to waste time arguing the folly of trying to dismiss good national energy policy because it's long term. i'll also note that using the strategic oil reserve to mitigate high oil prices, to maybe push them back below $100 a barrel for a short term, maybe a couple of weeks, this should be unacceptable to us. it should be unacceptable. we need a viable long-term answer, not a short-term and short-sighted political alibi. there is nothing that opec fears more than america committing to
the twin tracks of increased domestic production and reduced consumption. were we to do so, you would see opec doing everything in their power to drive down world oil prices to make us abandon our policies, and once again hamstring ourselves, once again make us reliant on them for our oil. but i want to offer an important perspective on this. even if you cannot accept that america increasing production and decreasing consumption would affect global oil prices, remember, price is not the only reason to advance such a policy. right now, the high price of oil works against america and it works for every nation that deliberately produces its reserves. production provides them with jobs, it provides them with revenue for their governments,
it provides better trade balances and national security, but all at our country's expense. we are the only country that has identified a huge resource base and then absolutely refused to produce it. so often we hear on this floor discussion about china eating our lunch and clean energy, about japan and germany outpacing us in -- in wind and solar technology, but does anybody think that if those countries had a gulf of mexico or an anwar that they would not be drilling in those areas as we speak? does anyone think that those nations demagogue nuclear power or refuse to permit coal plants? their -- their energy policies are on better track than ours.
they -- they're not just looking at what is happening today, they're looking -- they're looking tomorrow, they're looking today. they've got an energy policy that carries them out. there is an article in "the wall street journal" yesterday by nancen salari. he concludes this article with the statement that the u.s. does not have an energy problem, it has an energy strategy problem. think about that. it's not lacking the resources. it's the strategy for how we develop our energy resources. during his campaign, president obama liked to quote dr. martin luther king, and he talked about the fierce urgency of now. and there are few issues more important or more fundamental to our nation's long-term success than a viable energy policy.
people are very correct when they say that parts of this will -- will take time. parts of it will take a longer period of time, but now is nevermore fiercely urgent than when we have such an important and such a long journey ahead of us. if we're ever going to take control of our energy future, now is the time to get -- to come together, support the policies that promote abundant, affordable, clean, diverse and domestic energy. critically important to us, madam president, and i look forward to these conversations that will continue on the floor as we talk about ways that we not only work to reduce our budget, ways that we not only work to create jobs in this country, but ways that we truly build a strategic energy policy for the long term for this
a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from nevada. mr. ensign: madam president, i ask the call of the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. ensign: madam president, today i want to talk about gasoline prices and energy. just a few years ago, this nation was in the middle of an energy crisis not unlike the one that we are in today. back then, nevadans were confronted with record prices at the gas pump, and this body did nothing to relieve their burden.
when i joined with my colleagues to demand that we explore our own domestic energy possibilities, the call fell on deaf ears. in may of 2007, i said that -- quote -- "moving america toward energy independence needs to be more than a bumper sticker and a campaign slogan." unfortunately, it remained just that. campaign promises to protect our nation's security interests remain on the campaign trail, and cheers from political rallies to increase america's energy independence were left behind with deflateed balloons and forgotten confetti. well, here we are. my colleagues on this side of the aisle and i warned against what an unstable middle east could mean for our gasoline needs, and yet today what are we witnessing? turmoil in the region and escalating gasoline prices at home once again.
unfortunately, this time around, our economy is also in trouble. my state of nevada has continued to suffer the most during this recession, and economists are not predicting quick turnaround any time soon. the the problem with this new energy crisis is that a record number of people in nevada and around the country are now without jobs and without homes, so how are they supposed to afford $4-a-gallon gasoline or maybe even $5-a-gallon gasoline at the pump? i tell you simile: they can -- i tell you simply they cannot afford this. recent unrest has forced gas prices to rise nearly 40 cents a gallon in the recent weeks. to those struggling back in my state, that is verge on unaffordable. to those who are worse off, it already is. the price of gas is at a two inform year high.
the average price for a gallon of gasoline is now $3.52 in america. and when president obama first took office, the average price for a gallon of gasoline was $1.84. that's a 91% increase to date, and what are we doing? nothing. in nevada, gas prices are rising and now above $3.60 a gallon. the biggest concern with the rising cost of gasoline is that it translates into higher prices at the grocery store, in utility bills, and virtually for everything that we do. and i've spoken at length over the past few years about people in my state who are being forced to decide between paying the rent and putting food on the table to feed their families. but what are they going to do if they can afford to do neither? this is a saddening thought for
me but a reality for many others. members from both sides of the aisle have come to the floor to talk about people back in their home states who are suffering. philosophical differences aside, both parties have put forth legislation that they believe will help the economic plight of many americans. what have we done about energy prices that threaten to derail recovering families? nothing. rising gas prices affect nearly every sector of our economy. everywhere you look in america today, our economy continues to be directly affected by the skyrocketing price of fuel, and at a time when unemployment is over 14% in my home state and americans are already struggling financially, we can no longer allow this problem to be ignored or to be set aside. we need real solutions that develop our domestic energy and oil production, and we need
those solutions to decrease our dependence on dangerous foreign oil. we send over $500 billion a year out of this country to buy foreign oil, and a lot of that money ends p financing the i hav--ends up financing the very people who would do us harm. what america needs is a "everything but foreign oil from dangerous countries." that needs to be our energy policy so that we can ensure the price of gas does not further crip many our -- cripple our crumbling commitment of the 2008 -- in 2008 i spoke on the senate floor: "the american people are looking to us for solutions. we have a responsibility to make decisions here in order to provide them much-needed relief at home. and for many months republicans have been working to provide that relief. we've been focused on a three-pronged approach: boosting
renewable energy and alternative energy, encouraging energy efficiency, and growing american energy supply. this line of attack balances the need for us to be responsible stewards of our environment with the need for reliable, affordable energy to fuel our lives and our economy." again, this is what i said back in 2008 when republicans wanted to address the need for american energy independence. but the democrat majority had other priorities. we will, we simply cannot -- well, we simply cannot continue to pass the buck on to another congress and kick the can down the road. we need to take action and we need to do it now. just like the spentdzing cuts, everything -- just like the spending cuts, everything needs to be on the table when discussing american energy independence. and by working to eradicate our dangerous dependence on foreign
oil from the middle east and venezuela, we can protect merntion from choosing between -- we can protect americans from choosing between paying the rent, providing food for their families or paying for gas to drive to work. so what does an "everything but dangerous foreign oil" approach look like? it means 10 billion barrels of oil from anwr up in alaska. it means 28 billion barrels from deep-sea exploration. about 1.8 trillion barrels possibly from oil shell in colorado, utah, and wyoming. trillions of cubic feet in american natural gas. and it also means a 230-year supply of coal and great potential for nuclear energy. these are american sources of energy, and if we combine those with conservation and aggressive
investment in renewable and green energy, solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower, fuel cells, electric vehicles are all key to our american energy independence. i visited recently a couple of different places in my home state of nevada that are producing electric cars. those are great, but you still have to produce the energy to produce the electricity to run those electric cars. that's why we need this "all of the above" approach for american energy independence. my home state of nevada is actually a shining example of many innovations being made on renewable energy fronts. nevada solar one is one of the largest plants in the world and generates enough power to 14,000 households a year.
a photovoltaic power system powers the base. and hen dish son, each home has a rooftop solar electric system. and late in 2007, asra inc. selected las vegas as the site for the first united states manufacturing plant for solar thermal power systems. and the world's third-largest geothermal power producer is headquartered with reno, nevada. and nevada is home to the only associate degree program in the nation in energy efficiency. so it's absurd to think that people in nevada are going to be crippled by increasing prices at the gas pump at the same time that our state is leading the way in renewable energy. simply because congress will not act to address this crisis. throughout this last year, bills were passed, filled with unintended consequences. because every dip in the economy
was deemed by some to be a crisis that required an immediate solution. and yet we knowingly continue to ignore the energy crisis that we are continuing to be plagued with by our country every time that the middle east cannot get along. according to the department of energy, oil is the source of morph than 40 -- the source of more than 40% of our toament energy demands and more than 99% of the fuel that we use in our cars and trucks. the senator from alaska, senator murkowski, was just on the floor talking about how we all want to transition to more of a green economy, but the fact is that is going to be years and even decades away. so we have to have american sources of energy here now. the united states consumes about almost 19 million barrels of oil per day, at least of petroleum
products in 2009. we receive over half of this oil, 51%, from foreign sources, predominantly from the middle east, africa, and central america. but we cannot continue to ignore this issue. inaction is no longer an option. the obama administration's approach to developing domestic energy production has been to impose regulations, withdraw permits, shut off access to lands that contain valuable oil and natural gas deposits. in addition, the e.p.a. is currently regulating domestic energy resources for greenhouse gas emissions under the clean air act. we will, we can no longer afford organizations such as the e.p.a. claiming authority to cut off our access to resources because of arbitrary rules based on unsound science. these backdoor climate
regulations could increase the cost of gasoline and electricity by 50%. these policies work to promote our dependence on foreign oil, and they do nothing to reduce the cost for ordinary americans. 10 billion barrels in anwr up in alaska mean that drilling -- means that not drilling is not an option. anwr is roughly the size of south carolina, but drilling in anwr will only be about the size of mccarran airport in the city of las vegas. so about 2,000 acres out of the size of south carolina. if you had a map here, it literally would be a dot on a huge map. that's how tiny of an area that we have to disturb to get this 10 billion barrels of oil out of anwr. we will -- and we can -- well,
and we can even access anwr during the winter months, drive out on ice roads that are six-feet thick and then in the spring when everything starts to melt and the animals need to come out for their breeding in the springtime, we can take all of those things, cap the wells, take all of the equipment off and let nature take its course in the summer months. we will, additionally, at least 40 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the national petroleum reserve -- alaska -- and i hope i'm pronouncing this right, in the chukrhi area can replace crude imports in the persian gulf for nearly 65 years. let me repeat that. alaska -- new oil in alaska can rewhat we import -- are we place what we import from the persian
gulf for the next 65 years. if that's not in the interest of america, our national security interests and our national economic interests, i don't know what is. and i bet you that's a statistic that the obama administration would rather keep hidden. as a matter of fact, they are keeping it hidden, because the e.p.a. is blocking the ability of americans to go in and get those oil and natural gas reserves. well also in louisiana, drilling for natural gas in the hane hanesville shale estimated in an estimated $5.7 billion for louisiana residents in 2009 and it creates over 50,000 jobs. i mention this because going after energy in american -- going after american energy produces american jobs, and -- and i think everybody in this
chamber agrees that we need american jobs today. well now we're finding that there are more reserves located in central louisiana and south mississippi, and they may contain 7 billion more barrels of natural gas. but we've also found many natural gas reserves in the rest of the country. shale reserves in pennsylvania and ohio, in new york and oklahoma and west virginia could provide us literally with billions and billions of more barrels of natural gas. yet in the midst of this abundance, the administration has strapped down these reserves with regulations and too lon too-long-to-comply-with permits. we need to streamline the process to allow america to access our own resources, walle- without the hindrance of
bureaucratic red tape. we would be one step further to streeling an affordable and environmentally safe compressed natural gas vehicles. this will not only curb our reliance on dangerous foreign oil but also create even more jobs and poted us at the forefront of alternative fuel technology. by using our own natural gas reserves, we can build more power plants, improve our transportation needs through buses and trucks that run on natural gas, power our fleets, and improve our country's ability to manufacture steel, fabric, glass, and plastic that we need instead of outsourcing these jobs overseas, which is what's been happening. 28 billion barrels of deep-sea oil mean that the obama administration cannot continue to hold these reserves hostage by banning deep-sea drilling. the gulf of mexico and atlantic
coast alone hold commercial oil reserves ever 28 billion barrels of oil and up to 140 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. these are huge reserves. despite the administration lifting its moratorium on permits late last year, only one deepwater well permit has been issued in the last months. we can and we must do better than this. yesterday it was reported that the obama administration will issue another handful of deepwater drilling permits in the near future. this comes rat -- at a time when the administration is appealing a ruling from a federal court who has ordered for it, the administration, to act on the permits that have been pending and that have been virtually ignored by the administration. secretary salazar yesterday, in a senate subcommittee just yesterday said that oil production in the gulf will not
drop significantly as a result of the administration's delay. he said we may see a blip. well, this country cannot afford to see a downward blip. as a matter of fact, we need to see an upward tick. we need to see more production coming out of the gulf of mexico. recently, senator vitter drafted his no-cost stimulus plan, as he calls it, or his three d's. those three d's are domestic energy, domestic jobs, and reducing the deficit. this bill aims to increase our ability to access domestic energy sources to increase our energy independence. it would use these domestic energy resources to create thousands of real private sector, long-term jobs in areas such as my state where we have the potential to lead the nation in renewable energy. in 2009, the obama administration canceled 77 oil and gas leases in utah, and in
2010, it canceled another 61 oil and gas leases in montana. this is astounding to me because now instead of acting on american energy independence, we are trying to stifle the progress that we are making. so senator vitter's legislation would direct the obama administration to reinstate oil and gas lease that is were canceled and to open up anwar to oil production. it would also establish an anwar alternative energy trust fund so we can pay for renewable energy development with our own money instead of borrowing money from china and saudi arabia and others to do it. the bill also restricts the e.p.a. from imposing regulations that cut off our access to oil and gas resources instead of utilizing them. now, we have been talking about the debt on this floor and
overspending. we need legislation to go after american energy -- and by the way, this legislation won't cost us any money. as a matter of fact, it brings in money to the united states treasury because we get royalties off of american energy. that's the direction that this senate, the house and the president needs to take our country. less dependence on foreign oil, more american security from an energy independent standpoint, more economic security and more military security as well. now, republicans have solutions, and we're eager to start this debate, but we need the majority to bring these bills to the floor of the united states senate. madam president, the issues are too critical for us to delay. we can't afford to let gasoline continue to go up and up and up. $4, $5, who knows where it's
going to stop? if we would have acted before, unfortunately president clinton vetoed the bill that would have opened up anwar back in the mid 1990's. i think we were one vote short in passing the ability to open up anwar when president bush was president. this body failed by one vote. that's unfortunate because if we would have opened up anwar, we wouldn't be nearly in as bad of shape as what we are in today. but it isn't just anwar. it's many other places where we can have american energy, and we need to act and we need to act now. madam president, i yield the floor.
a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota. mr. thune: madam president, i rise today to talk about our nation's security and what the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, admiral mike mullen recently said is the greatest threat to america's future. he mentioned not too long ago that the greatest threat to america's national security is our national debt. not al qaeda, not the iranian nuclear threat, not instability in the middle east or russian spies, but our national debt. that's a stunning statement, but i think that it's backed up by the numbers. we are more than $14 trillion in debt. in 220 years of american history up to the beginning of 2009 and 43 american presidents, it took us that amount of time to pile up $6.3 trillion of publicly held debt. under the obama administration's latest budget, we will double that in another two years and
triple it in ten. that budget calls for a sizable annual deficit every single year for the next ten years. the smallest budget deficit we would face would be $607 billion in the year 2015, and then our deficits would start rising again. that's what the white house calls a balanced budget. i would call it a joke, but it's no laughing matter. we just learned that china holds even more of our debt than the treasury had previously thought -- 26% of total u.s. debt held by foreigners. the president's budget inevitably would add to that. now, that crushing debt burden that we are imposing on future generations will seriously limit their ability to live the american dream. for generations in this country, parents have sacrificed so that their children could have a better life, but today, madam president, we are standing that tradition on its head. excessive spending and debt
threaten to make the next generation the first in our history to have a lower standard of living than the one that came before. that was not what my parents did. my father fought in world war ii. he worked hard as a teacher, a coach. he drove the school bus, ran a motel in my hometown. basically did any job he could get and made whatever sacrifice he needed to make in order to keep our family fed, clothed and sheltered. his father before him, my grandfather, traveled to this country from norway and worked doing hard labor laying the railroad across the plains. he started his own hardware store and ran it through the depression and the war until he couldn't work anymore. he knew what it meant to sacrifice to take care of his family. but today, washington seems to be saying that the generations to follow us will have to sacrifice so we won't have to make the tough choices. we don't want to do the hard work of living within our means, and so our children, our grandchildren will just have to get by on less.
mr. president, -- madam president, every one of us in this congress should be ashamed of that prospect, but more than shame for what we are doing to future generations, we should be alarmed about what we are doing to our economy today. that skyrocketing debt means a burden of uncertainty in our businesses, small and large alike. businesses and people are uncertain if there will be a fiscal crisis, they limit their investment. add in the stifling amount of overregulation coming out of congress and the administration the past two years, it means that businesses have one more reason to worry about whether they can afford to add another person to the payroll, and that means fewer jobs. one influential study endorsed by none other than treasury secretary geithner found that countries with very high debt burdens suffer from lower economic growth rates. median growth rates for countries with public debt above roughly the 90% of g.d.p.
threshold are about 1% lower than otherwise. the reasons for this are simple: government borrowing crowds out private investment. the less productive public sector takes resources that could and would be better used by the more productive private sector. we've already crossed the dangerous 90% threshold gross debt was 93% of g.d.p. at the end of last fiscal year, and we'll top the 100% barrier by the end of this fiscal year. and under the president's budget, madam president, the debt will continue to grow rapidly, eventually reaching 107% of g.d.p. that's even with the gimmicks and questionable assumptions that the white house budget proposal contains, including what i believe are very unrealistic economic growth assumptions. president obama's own economic advisors have estimated that a 1% increase in g.d.p. translates into one million more jobs. many more people would have jobs today if it weren't for this
crushing debt burden. now, we did finally have some good news last friday about private sector job creation. nobody was happier than i was to see that, but the fact remains that the labor force participation rate in the latest unemployment figures was unchanged at 64.2%, the lowest level it's been since the early 1980's. a lot of workers have been so discouraged with the lack of jobs that they have simply stopped looking. and let's not forget that our recovery so far has lagged far behind past recessions. at this point after the 1981- 1982 recession, the economy had already expanded 10%, but the current recovery has only expanded the economy by .14%. that's not good enough, madam president. we all know that if we don't act soon to get control of federal spending and our soaring debt, that any good news will be short-lived. for two years, the pied pipers of big government told us they
could spend their way out of financial troubles, that the money was free and it would lead to jobs, jobs, jobs. well, they were wrong. two years of their policies have left us dramatically worse off. it's simple. too much government spending means too much government debt. that means a weaker economy and fewer jobs. i think we are finally at the point where most people even here in washington are willing to concede that we need to get a handle on our spending. even the obama administration, the biggest spending white house in history, has finally coming around to the realize that just maybe we should let the credit card cool off a little bit. well, there is no better time in america's history to change course regarding federal spending. we are at a moment when we are about to get hit by a succession of three budgetary waves. first, the end of the two-week continuing resolution on march 18. then we will have to address the debt limit sometime this spring. and after we have dealt with those two things, we need to
take up the budget for fiscal year 2012 because the new fiscal year is only six months away. now, none of those is a mystery. none of them snuck up on us. we have seen them all coming. we have had plenty of warning, so we have no excuse for being unprepared. and i'm confident we can come together and solve all three of those issues. we showed we can do it with the two-week c.r., finding $4 billion of spending that we could agree was not our most important national priority right now and could be cut. and thanks to the great work of our friend and colleague, dr. coburn, the g.a.o. has confirmed that there are hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and duplication we can begin to scrub out of our federal budget. that's our short-term situation, those three challenges, but there has also been talk of a balanced budget amendment, and i'm a cosponsor of two balanced budget amendments. that's not a short-term fix. that's a long-term issue.
so that's the short-term and the long-term, madam president. in the midterm, we need to come up with additional solution toss get us off what i call federal fiscal irresponsibility, budgetary brinksmanship and deficits as far as the eye can see. we need to get back on the path to prosperity. that path cannot be built on borrowed money and reckless spending. getting back on the right path is going to require us to fix our broken budget process. to that end, i am proud to reintroduce a bill that i introduced last year that would establish common sense reforms to improve transparency and efficiency in our budgeting process, and i'm proud that senators chambliss, crapo, inhofe, johanns, kirk, portman and wicker have joined me in cosponsoring senate bill 439, the deficit reduction and budget reform act of 2011. if we don't do something to fix this broken system and soon, we are going to keep getting hit by
these budget waves and sooner or later they are going to sink us. my proposal has three main parts. the first is budget reforms. i propose that we start by reforming paygo rules to prevent the double-counting gimmicks that too often are used around here, particularly with regard to our trust funds. we saw that double counting occur during the health care debate last year when hundreds of billions of dollars were double counted, essentially spent twice during the health care debate. my proposal would make the federal budget a binding joint resolution, signed into law by the president. today it is a nonbinding resolution and routinely gets waved. my proposal calls for a biannual budget time line, more time for oversight and to see what's working. and doing a budget in every other year, during the odd-numbered years, and during the even-numbered years doing oversight, so instead of looking for ways to spend taxpayer dollars, we look for ways to
save taxpayer dollars. a legislative line-item veto. governors have it. the president should, too. my proposal calls for preventing the abuse of emergency spending designations, which again have become all too routine and all too frequent around here to get around spending caps. i would also modify the trigger container to have honest accounting. my proposal also would update the credit reform act to score the purchases of debt, stock, equity, and capital using a discount rate that incorporates market risk rather than the procedure that's been used in the past, which in my view completely understates the cost of many of these programs. and, madam president, i would call for a new standing joint
committee of congress for budget deficit reduction. if you can believe this, there are 2k-6 committees or subsubcommittees that spend tax dollars, not one that saves tax dollars. that joint committee would be responsible for produce ago bill to cut the deficit by at least 10% every budget cycle without raising taxes. this bill would get expedited consideration in both chambers of congress and only spending reductions, mr. president, not tax increases. tax increases would be off the table. the standing committee, not just issuing one report and closing up shop, its recommendations would get an up-or-down vote in congress. and, mr. president, it is interesting to me, there is a precedent for doing this -- and i see the senator from west virginia on the floor. back in the 1940's there was a senator from west virginia named harry byrd, who as they were debating whether or not to raise taxes to fund world war ii, came
up with an idea and said before we do that, we ought to lack at savings that we can find in our federal budget. and so he proposed a joint committee called the joint committee on the reduction of nonessential feds expenditures and they went about the process of scrubbing the federal budget to see if there might be savings that could be achieved that would prevent having to raise taxes to fund the war effort. in the process of doing that, that committee achieved a great many things. it was in existence for about 30 years. and so what this would do, mr. president, is draw on that precedent and create a joint standing committee in the congress that would be bicameral -- 10 house members, 10 senate members -- bipartisan who would have a statutory requirement each budget cycle for coming up with a specifie spes number of s through spend reductions. this proposal, mr. president,
would freeze and cap spending, propose a 10-year spending freeze at 2008 levels adjusted for inflation. after all, non-defense discretionary spending has increased at an alarming rate since 2508. 22% increase when inflation has amounted to roughly 2%. in other words, non-defense discretionary spending has grown in the last two years, mr. president, at 10 times the rate of inflation. now, as i said, this is not a quick fix. no plan is going to solve our problems overnight. and i hope we don't take seriously anyone who claims to have plan that will. but just the same, i don't think we should take seriously any plan that claims an annual deficit of $607 billion is the same as a balanced budget. it's not the same and it's not good enough. the only thing that is good enough for our children and for the future prosperity of this great country is for us to get our fiscal house in order and to
embrace responsible budgeting. we cannot continue to spend money we don't have, mr. president. we have to learn like the american people have to live within their means. we have to learn how to tighten our belt. i want i want to close with a couple of statements that -- i mention the he willier the statement by the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, admiral mike mullen with regard to the greatest throat our national security before our national debt. i also want to quote when secretary of state hillary clinton called the unexpected $1.3 trillion u.s. deficit. she referred to it it is a message of weakness internationally. she went ton say, and i quote, "it poses a national security threat in two ways: it undermines our capacity to act in our own interests, and it does constrain us where constraint may be undesirable." end quote. that's secretary of state hillary clinton with regard to these year-over-year massive deficits that we continue to
run. and just today we heard that pimco, one of the largest mutual funds in the country, hags decided to dump government debt, its government debilities. and in that story that came out today that was discussing that particular move on their part, there was a quote from a gentleman, jim rogers, who was the cofounder of the quantum fund and he said, "u.s. government bonds are not a safe haven. i cannot conceive of lending money to the united states government for 30 years." think about that, mr. president. the united states of america is being viewed increasingly as an unsafe investment because of this massive debt that we are running, and what it could mean to the future with regard to inflation and interest rates and the health of our economy and
its attractiveness to people not only here at home but around the world as place for an investment. we have a major, major problem. these are serious times. these are serious problems. these are serious challenges. they require serious solutions and serious leadership. and i hope here in the united states senate that we are up to that. as i said before, it starts on several levels. in the near-term we need to get the spending you understand control. we're trying to do that with the discretionary spending bill that is in front of us. we need to deal with the longer--term issue and i hope we can pass a balanced budget amendment. we've had votes on that in the past here in congress, unsuccessfully, nature proly, but we need to put in place what so many states have that require them on an annual basis to balance their budgets. and then w we need to put in ple budget process reforms that in my view will put more of a straitjacket on the congress and force us to make more of these hard decisions. and i think frankly that because
we do this every year, this budget every year, we get very preoccupied with 12 appropriations bills and a budget. although last year we didn't even pass a budget nor did we pass a single appropriation bill which is a major, major failure of this congress when you're running a $3.7 trillion enterprise called the federal government. but we need to provide in our annual schedule time to do oversight, time to look at what we can be doing not to spend more money but to save money, and if we had a biennial budget process where we're spending money in odd numbers of years and doth appropriations bills in those years and then in the even-numbered years when people go home to run for reelection, instead of looking for ways to spend money we're actually looking for ways to spend money, i think these are reforms that are long overdue, mr. president. and soy hope my colleagues will take seriously this issue of budget process reform. i know it is not a glamourous subject. i think most people's eyes glaze over when you talk about budget process reform.
in my view, there isn't anything we could do that would more fundamentally change the way that washington works than reforming this budget process because it drives everything else. and if we don't start there, we're never going to get this issue of spending and debt under control in the long term. and so, mr. president, i thank my colleagues who cosponsored this bill. i would hope that there will be more colleagues who will join on this bill. if not this one, something like it -- that will once and for all change the way that washington works by undertaking reforms in our budget process here that will lead us to greater fiscal responsibility and greater prosperity for future generations. mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from west virginia. mr. rockefeller: mr. president, tomorrow is march 11. for most of us this date carries no particular significance.
it does, however, reflect exactly six months before september 11. that date we do remember and will not forget. it is six months from the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack ever and a day that we as a nation can never forget. it is six months from a date we will honor the memory of those whose lives came to and he and the way we came together at least for a short period of time as a nation. with that historic date approaching, i think that it is that we honor the tremendous bravery of all public safety officials. i think this is one of the most important issues facing the congress, and it's one that we can do something about very quickly and reduce the budget deficit by doing so.
our police, our firefighters, our emergency medical technicians, and the countless others who fought that day to keep us safe and who work every day to protect us from harm -- we have essentially forgotten about them. the national commission specifically said that you have to -- the 9/11 commission, they said you have to have a system which connected all law enforcement across this nation in an interoperable wireless system. now, obviously, therefore, that's a way of saying the best and simplest way to honor them is to make sure we're giving them the tools they need to be successful, to be safe, and to do their job in a way that does not expose them to needless dangers.
right now we're not doing that. much as in the first gulf war when the army and the navy and the marines and the air force couldn't communicate with each other because they were all on different systems of communications and we all kind of laughed at that as being kind of pathetic -- we will well, the sort of solved that -- well, we haven't solved this one. so when it comes to public safety communications, these everyday heroes do not have the networks that they so could easily have and that they so desperately need. because we have not acted. we have not acted. 10-year anniversary coming up. six months from now. we have not acted. too often first responders lack that interoperable network that
are essential to providing an effective response in emergencies. all kinds of emergencies, a lot of them very desperate, not all of them catastrophic, but always that potential. they don't have the anlt to communicate whereby they don't have the ability to communicate with one another. they don't have the ability to communicate with other agencies. they don't have the ability to communicate request other cities and other -- with other cities and other cities and states across state lines. they can't do that. i mean be, it is kind of pathetic, the aifnlgt internet. we have chosen to do nothing, instructed by the 9/11 commission to do something a long, long time ago. we have done nothing. so this ham percent our ability to response -- so this hampers our ability to respond to crisis, this lack of quivment whether that crisis is a terrorist attack or a natural disaster, it puts lives in unnecessary peril. i believe it is time to do something about it.
in the commerce committee we happen to take that approach. that's why i introduced s. 28, the public safety spectrum and wireless innovation act. this legislation, mr. president, does only two things: first, it sets aside the ten megahearts of spectrum known as the "d" block. i don't know why it is called the d-block. but it is called the d-block. it is 10 megahrter hertzes. that means they can do the whole thing, completely connect with each other, every sheriff, every state police person, federal, state, county, municipal, all be on one system to talk to each other from a common communications base and a common database. you know, it is an interoperable wireless broadband network that we have to do v. but we don't have it because we haven't made
the effort. now, the second thing it does it gives the federal communication commission the authority to do something very interesting: toirks hold incentive auctions based on the voluntary return of spectrum which is not necessarily being used by a whole variety of people who just want to hold on to it. better to hold on to something than give it. but we give them incentive on a voluntary basis -- a crucial word in this legislation -- "on a voluntary basis" to return that spectrum. these auctions in turn will provide the funding to support the construction and maintenance of public safety's network, which they need and which i have been speaking b and they will free up additional spectrum for innovative commercial uses. in short, this bill mayors real estate sources for the first responders with good commercial spectrum policy that can keep us safe and help our economy grow.
so that's why the legislation halls the support of absolutely every major public safety organization across this count country, obviously included those in my state. dwhras this bill also has strong support from all governors, all mayors across this country. they have to deal with this. we don't, they do. and that is why we have now the support of the administration. so i urge my colleagues to support the public safety spectrum and wireless innovation act. to those who say we can't afford to do this now, obviously i would say we can't afford not to. the role of intelligence reveals all kinds of things going on not only outside the country but inside the country, implying that there is a target or many of them within this country.
but if this is not compelling enough, i think it's important for people to know this. this legislation pays for itself , plus it doesn't cost a dime. according to the white house and even the industry itself, the telecommunications industry, incentive auctions will bring in revenue so much above what funding public safety requires, it will leave billions over that amount for example deficit reduction. i'm talking a whole lot of deficit reduction, billions and billions. so it's a win-win-win. i close, let me just say we have a once in a generation opportunity to provide our public safety officials with the spectrum that they need to communicate when tragedy strikes. we have chosen not to do that. and now there is this sort of malicious and delicious pressure
of the 9/11 commission's directive to us to do our duty as a country to the people who keep us safe, and more than that, we really do need to keep this country safe, and it's not always going to be safe, and we just don't know when the next attack will come. so that we have the incentive auctions which are voluntary, but they will work. they can be sold for lots of money, and we will have therefore lots of money over and above what it costs to build this interoperable wireless broadband system across the entire country, connecting every law enforcement official to every other one. to my colleagues, i say let's seize this moment. this is not republican, this is not democrat. it's simply the right thing to do. and i ask people to think back to those images of 9/11, of that
day. not just the 9/11 commission report that emanate interested that, why we couldn't stop that, but just to think of the images of that day, of what those people absorbed in their lungs, the natural instinct for a firefighter to come from all over the country, policemen to come from all over the country, ambulance people to come from all over the country to new york city, the city which they don't start out loving, generally, out there in the hinterlands, but they knew this was a crisis, they reacted, they saved lives, and they imperilled their own and many of them lost their lives. so let's do something historic, mr. president, and let's do it together and let's do it here in this congress. and certainly, let us get this all done before the tenth anniversary of september 9th. i yield the floor.
the presiding officer: the gentleman from illinois -- the senator from illinois. mr. kirk: that's $35 billion borrowed per week to run our government, totaling over over $1.5 trillion borrowed just to run the government for a year. harvard's great economic his forrian nael ferguson noted the decline of a country can be clearly marked when we see it paying its money lenders more than its army. his classic case comes from the french monarchy of the 1780's who failed to make interest payments on their debt, causing a financial collapse that triggered their revolution. recently, carmen reinhardt and kenneth roga wrote a brilliant
book entitled "this time is different, eight centuries of financial folly." their vast study revealed that most government officials always believe that they are unique and different and then make the same mistakes that have brought low past nations and empires. well, using nael ferguson's tipping point, where are we today? this year, the total cost of maintaining our army equals about $137 billion. this year, we will pay pay $225 billion in interest to our money lenders for the use of of $14 trillion borrowed from china, japan and elsewhere. the startling conclusion is the united states has already passed ferguson's tipping point by paying america's money lenders more than its own army, and it gets worse.
in just six years, the administration says we will have to pay over $661 billion to our money lenders for interest on rapidly expanding debts. with the expected cost of our army, at $195 billion, our air force at $201 billion and our navy marines at $217 billion, the total cost of $613 billion to provide for our common defense will be smaller than the the $661 billion due to our money lenders. in simple economic terms, we will be forced to pay our money lenders first before taking care of our own safety or risk seeing the value of the very dollars in our wallets disappear. now, remember, the numbers that
i have quoted here are optimistic. they assume no severe spike in interest costs and no additional war. recently, the senate agonized over a short-term two-week spending bill that made a a $4 billion cut to spending. we should see that bill's cuts as modest, knowing that we will already pay $616 million daily in interest and over $4 billion in interest per week. in sum, the cuts made by the two-week bill adopted by the congress saved just one week's interest payment for the united states. as dire as the situation is, there could be a bright side. our country has seen this movie before. washington, lincoln, roosevelt,
they all accumulateed economy-crushing debts as the fate of the united states hung in the balance. our best example of what to do next comes from our own grandparents, rightly entitled the greatest generation. tom brokaw coined the title for americans of the 1930's and 1940's who defeated the depression, the japanese and the nazis simultaneously. but i would add a fourth largely unnoticed victory that brokaw missed. after three great victories for freedom, our grandparents then spent the next 20 years paying the debts that they incurred to win the contests with the depression and in the pacific and in europe. their accumulated debts of 1946 totaled over 120% of our
national income. economists report that between economic growth and some inflation, the greatest generation reduced the crippling world war ii debts that secured our victory during the late 1940's and decade of the 1950's. the return to a more fiscally responsible government sparked an economic boom that built a superpower called the united states of america. the history lesson here is clear: each generation has faced conflict, war and debt, and each generation is tested. the looming debt crisis facing this government is our generation's test. while some government officials and bankers may counsel ineffective action, saying we owe this money to ourselves or because the dollar is the reserve currency, we can owe
this amount, we know that the crisis we face is not different from the ones that brought other nations low. with spending cuts and discipline, we can master this danger as our grandparents did. we need to do the hard things like entitlement reform and make similar moves in dramatic fashion the way our grandparents did to secure our future. but there is one difference that's truly there between us and other nations. from the dawn of our revolution, the united states has become the greatest force for human liberty and dignity ever known. the united states ended slavery, gave women the right to vote and spread freedom across europe, latin america and asia. we are now challenged by a 21st century set of world views in the middle east and china that
do not hold the western value of the individual as high as we do. therefore, it is doubly important to do the work needed to reduce spending and balance the books so that we restore the vitality of a free people and their cause of expanding liberty and human dignity. the next time you see a member of the greatest generation, don't just say thank you. ask them for their advice on how to trim budgets and restore economic growth in the face of extraordinary debts the way they did. and, mr. president, i yield back and would suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. mr. vitter: thank you, mr. president. i ask unanimous consent to end the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. vitter: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i, too, take the floor of the senate to urge all of us, democrats and republicans alike, to focus on the single biggest domestic threat to our country, our single greatest challenge in the eyes of every louisianaian, every american i know, and that is to stop this runaway spending and debt. mr. president, americans all around the country, certainly louisianaians all around my state, understand that this is a grave threat to our economic future, and it's not just some vague threat to generations two and three away from us. this is an immediate threat
because the path of spending and debt we're on is completely unsustainable. we must come together in a bipartisan way. we must act. we must solve this real and pressing problem before it's an immediate crisis. and, mr. president, -- excuse me -- mr. president, i think we should clearly do that well before the need -- any need for an increase in the debt limit arises, well before this congress reaches a crisis atmosphere over the need for an increase in the debt limit. for all of these reasons, mr. president, i've joined together with p.m. of my colleagues -- many of my colleagues. i sent the majority leader, senator reid, a letter today. first let me thank all of my colleagues to join me on this
letter: senator sessions, tuohey, ensign. the letter is very simple and very straightforward. it says that this is the greatest challenge we fairks and it says that because of that we need to face it. we need to debate it, we need to talk about it, weefnedz to act, and we need to start doing that now well before any significant deadline like when the debt limit may have to be increased. so the letter says, mr. leader, we're going to oppose moving to any other bill that doesn't directly address this crisis when we need to act on this grave threat. let me read relevant portions of the letter, because i think it goes right to the point p. "dear leader reid, yesterday the senate voted on two proposals to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year, but this
debate gave us only a limited opportunity to discuss what americans know is the crucial issue of our time: cutting government spending and dramatically reducing our national debt. additionally, no member of the senate was permitted to offer amendments under the structured process, which in our opinion prevents a full, open, and robust debate. with our national debt poised to reach its $14.3 trillion limit in the very near future, taxpayers expect congress to work together to reduce wasteful and unnecessary spending and be more vigilant about how we spend public funds. the american people want congress to deal with the tough issues of cutting spending and almost every member of the senate has agreed that we must address our fiscal situation immediately. while there are certainly many issues that warrant the senate's consideration, we feel that the
senate must not debate and consider bills at this time that do not affirmatively cut spending, directly address structural budget reforms, reduce government's role in the economy so businesses can create jobs or directly address this current financial crisis. the american people resoundingly rejected the way the senate waited until christmas eve as a mechanism to force hurried debate on president obama's massive health care legislation. voting to proceed to another legislative measure effectively runs away from the central issues of spending and debt and repeats that flawed process. we, therefore, are notifying you of our intention to object to the consideration of any legislation that fails to directly address this crisis in a meaningful way. our objections would be withheld if the senate agrees to dedicate significant floor time to debate
this issue well in advance of the federal government reaching our statutorily mandated debt limit. sincerely -- "and again it is signinged by bone myself, senator sessions, rubio, demint, paul, lee, toomey, and ensign to the majority leader. and, again, mr. president, the statement is clear: this is a crisis. we need to act certainly before we reach the statutory debt limit. so what are we waiting for? let's act now. let's not move to other cats and dogs bills that may be positive legislation but can certainly wait. let's move to the people's business. let's move to the absolute top challenge we face domestically as a cufnlt let's come together and debate, vote on, an hopefuly begin to solve this problem of
unsustainable spending and debt. now, mr. president, to do that, we also need leadership, ideas, suggestions, and i believe we have provided that on this side of the aisle and we would welcome ideas, suggestions, concrete proposals from all members. let me just list the more than two dozen pieces of legislation that go directly to this issue. let me just list some of them. senate bill 14 by senator ensign to establish the commission on congressional budgetary accountability and review of federal agencies. senate bill 81, an isakson bill to direct unused appropriations for senate pernld and office expense accounts to be deposited into the treasury and actually reduce the federal debt. senate bill 102, a mccain bill, which requires o.m.b. to transmit to congress a message with specified information
requesting any rescission the president proposals under the procedures instituted under that act. senate bill 162 by senator paul to cut $500 billion in federal spending in fy 2011. a senate bill 163, by senator toomey, the full faith and credit act to prioritize principal and interest payments when and if the debt limit is reached. senate bill 178, by senator dees mint to reduce federal spending by $2.5 trillion through fiscal year 2021. senate bill 245 by senator corker, his so-called "cap" act to create a discretionary spending cap for congress. senate bill 259. this is my bill to prioritize social security payments, if and when the debt limit is reached.
senate bill 360 by senator inhofe to create a point of order to exceed nonsecurity discretionary limits and also to create spending limits for fiscal years 2017 to 2021. senate bill 389 by senator kirk, and i believe senator hatch has a very similar bill, to establish a commission to review cost control. senate bill 391 by senator moran to reall unobligated balances of president obama's stimulus bill. senate joint resolution 3 by snare hatch, a balanced budget amendment. and senate joint resolution 4 by senator shelby on the same topic. and senate joint resolution 5 by senator lee on the same topic. this is a long list but it's certainly not exhaustive, mr. president. i just read a partial list to make the point:
we're coming up with ideas, proposals, solutions. we encourage every senator of every party to come up with ideas, proposals, solutions and let's actually talk about the greatest face -- threat we face as a country. let's talk about it now. let's debate it now. let's exchange ideas in a positive atmosphere now, well before we reach any crisis atmosphere over the debt limit. again, mr. president, i respectfully urge the distinguished majority leader, senator reid, to heed our call to take up our call to arms, to read our letter and react by creating identified time on the floor, well before we reach the statutory debt limit, to debate and pass solutions on this
crucial topic. again, mr. president, i don't think there is debate that this isn't the greatest challenge we face as a country, that this isn't the greatest economic threat we face. so, quite simply, what are we waiting for? we need time to bring forth these ideas and exchange them and debate them and act. we need time to do this well before the statutory debt limit is reached. we need to do the people's business in a reasonable way, in a sober atmosphere, not in an atmosphere of hysteria or threats when the debt limit would be reached in a matter of days. with that, mr. president, i urge all of my colleagues to join us in this effort, to come to the floor with your ideas, your proposals, and let's do the people's business. mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that our letter be made
part of the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. vitter: mr. president, i also ask unanimous consent that this partial list of republican solutions and proposals be made part of the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. vitter: and with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. mrs. hutchison: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from texas. mrs. hutchison: mr. president, i rise today to talk in morning business about the energy issue that is facing our country. anyone who has filled up a car or truck in the last month knows that we have an energy crisis that is building in our country
that needs to be addressed. last week i filled up my pickup truck, and it cost about $50. across the nation, parents are driving car pools, farmers, small business historians and commuters are experiencing sticker shock at the rising cost to put gas in their vehicles. today oil is over $104 a barrel. that means, on average, americans are paying $3.52 a gallon, and it is going in the upward direction from there. we are clearly in an economic downturn. we have high unemployment. now is not the time to sit back and do nothing, as the price of gasoline goes up at the pump. in response to this, the white house is beginning to talk about tapping the strategic petroleum
reserve. we know that will not work. the strategic petroleum reserve is available for natural disasters and global disasters. but experience has shown us that any gain from releasing oil from the strategic petroleum reserve is small and temporary. and prices quickly go right back up to their high-and-rising levels. and if we diminish our resources, our reserves in the strategic petroleum reserve, we are even more vulnerable to those who would do mischief to our country because they would know we have a diminished supply, or to the natural disasters for which we are supposed to be prepared. our problem is that we are the only nation on earth that has vast natural resources, which we will -- which we will not use. american energy is out there.
it is under our land. it is under our waters. it is ready to be tapped, and it can be tapped environmentally safely. we could bring the prices down on our own accord. we know that there is upheaval in the middle east right knew could affect further the gasoline prices because of potential shortages. we are too dependent on foreign sources for our energy needs in this country. it is about 60%. that is not strategically sound, and it is most certainly not in our national security interest to leave us at that level. the gulf of mexico is probably the second-biggest resource that we have. alaska is the first. the gulf of mexico accounts for nearly 30% of total u.s. oil production and 13% of natural gas production in our country.
by failing to take full advantage of that resource, we are putting our energy security on the line. 400,000 jobs across the gulf coast are tied to the offshore energy industry. nearly a year after issuing its moratorium and months since the moratorium was lifted, the department of interior last week approved its first, its one and only deepwater permit. one in a year. and it is one and one only. there are thousands of idled leases, people sitting in the gulf of mexico idle that should be able to be at least exploring to determine if it is worth drilling, and yet the gulf is
facing a permitorium. my constituents know the pain of this. one unfortunate case is the houston-based seahawk drilling company. seehawk drilling used to be the second-largest shallow-water drilling contractors in the yeas united states. it provides high-paying jobs to men and women in texas and across the gulf of mexico. i say used to because in february bureaucratic delays in shallow water permitting forced sea hawk drilling to file for bankruptcy. they could not continue to have the costs associated with their employment levels and their company just being there without the opportunity to drill and produce and keep their employee base. they declared bankruptcy. it destroyed 1,000 high-paying
texas jobs. i received a letter describing the pain and distress the company felt when it had to inform the dedicated sea hawk employees that they no longer had a job. according to the letter, on the day sea hawk was forced to sell its assets and lay off workers, the chief operating officer fought back the emotions of the day, took a deep breath and left the conference room for a room full of sea hawk employees to announce to them that their company was bankrupt. these are real people with real families who lost real jobs. american jobs. and it could have been prevented. since the moratorium was enacted, at least 13 rigs, deepwater and shallow-water, have departed the gulf of mexico, taking with them good american jobs. and, furthermore, putting us in the position of having to import
now from the foreign countries where these rigs have gone, not only taking away american jobs but forcing us to be even more dependent on foreign imports for our energy needs. offshore energy production is expected to decrease by 13% in 2011 due to the slow pace of permitting. this is unacceptable, and we must do something that is productive. yesterday senator landrieu and i introduced the lease act. the lease extension and secure energy act of 2011. all our bill does is extend the offshore leases that are impacted by the moratorium and the lack of permitting for one year. the lease returns to leasees the lease time taken from them
during the moratorium. this will increase domestic energy production and protect some american jobs, those that have not already left. despite being unable to explore for energy resources, the lease holders are continuing to pay the expenses as time ticks away on their lease. the lease act will prevent leases from running out and it gives the leasees the certainty they deserve that they will have the full amount of the lease for which they have paid bonus payments to secure. in 2009, the industry accounted for $70 billion in economic value and provided $20 billion in revenue to federal, state, and local governments through royalties, bonuses and tax collections. so, i hope that our bill will be noncontroversial. it would seem to me that anyone
would agree that if you pay for a ten-year lease and you have the expenses of exploring to see if that lease has potential before you drill to see if the lease has potential, that you would have the full ten years and not nine years because you have not been able to use the year that we have had the moratorium and the lack of permitting. there has been another suggestion by the administration that perhaps we should be proposing energy taxes, up to $90 billion over the next ten years. the president suggested that in his state of the union message. much of the taxes thagd go on the oil and gas -- much of the taxes that would go on the oil and gas industry or expenses that any industry, any business can write off but would single out the oil and gas industry not to be able to expense their
exploration and drilling costs, what would happen? if the prices go up, of course who's going to pay those high prices? the families and businesses that are having to fill their cars with gasoline. in fact, the administration, through the e.p.a., is also trying to take away -- well, actually, i misspoke. it's not the e.p.a. the e.p.a. is trying to bring more expenses to the refining industry by purporting to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. but the administration is also adding to the refiners by saying that they shouldn't get the manufacturing tax credit. we've been trying to encourage manufacturing in america because we want manufacturing jobs in america. so many of those have gone
overseas that the administration proposes to tax the refiners who are manufacturing the gasoline from the oil, and add more expense to the product, which is gasoline, and, oh, by the way, take away the capability for these refiners to have the same treatment as any other manufacturer in our country. raising taxes on our domestic oil and energy industry is wrong, particularly at this time. we need to assure that we are not going to drive our energy jobs overseas. and yet, what the administration is doing is counterintuitive if we all agree that we want to keep the jobs in america. so here we are with gas at $3.52
a gallon, and the summer driving season is upon us. we are looking now at estimates from the experts that gasoline could be $4 a gallon. what is that going to do to the family that wants to take a vacation at a reasonable price? what is that going to do to the workers who have to get to work and who are already strapped or, heaven's sakes, the poor people who are unemployed who are trying to go and interview for jobs. at $4 a gallon, mr. president, we can't sit here and let this happen. it is time that we get together with the president of the united states and have proactive energy ideas, programs, and solutions that are going to keep jobs in
america, that will allow us to use our natural resources to begin to set the stage if we have upheaval in the middle east that causes the supply go down at a great rate, we need to have our supply go up to meet the test, to meet the test that we should have of lowering energy prices to our people with our own natural resources. and it's not to put the spro out and put us in an even more vulnerable position. no. it is to use our resources with americans to take the jobs and increase our supply so that the price of gasoline at the pump goes down for the american people and so that we can have the jobs that we should have in america stay in america. thank you, mr. president. and i yield the floor.
the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. mr. cardin: thank you, mr. president. 12 years ago this very day the senate passed a resolution that honored harriet tubman, har yet tubman day -- harriet tubman day on march 10. that resolution was sponsored by senator carper and then senator biden. in the house of representatives i served and i cosponsored a similar resolution. harriet tubman was a remarkable woman. she was born in dorchester county, maryland in 1822 and she was a slave for greater than 25
years of her life. at age 25 she married john tubman. she escaped slavery in 1849, but she returned to the eastern shore of maryland not once, but 19 times that we know of within a ten-year period in order to rescue slaves and to set them free. she rescued slaves in dorchester, in caroline county in maryland and throughout the entire northeast. she was known as the modern-day moses for the underground railroad. in the civil war, she joined union forces as a spy, as a scout and as a nurse, operating in virginia, florida and south carolina. after the civil war was over, she settled in auburn, new york, and was very actively involved in the women's suffrage and established one of the first
african-american homes for the aged. she died in 1913. harriet tubman embodies the american spirit. she was a strong-willed person who fought for the rights and freedom of those who were oppressed in the barbaric institution of slavery. her personal freedom was not enough for her, because she recognized there was injustice in this country and shaoeptd to be involved. -- shaoeptd to be involved. as the resolution that passed the senate 12 years ago said, harriet tubman who is courage and personal pursuit of the promise of the american ideals and common principles continues to serve and inspire all people who cherish freedom. a major part of learning and understanding the significance of history is being able to experience the places where that history occurred. from fort mchenry in baltimore, maryland, to the lincoln memorial here in the nation's capital, we have preserved our history for future
generations. millions of visitors and schoolchildren visit these iconic places in american history. harriet tubman national historic park in the harriet tubman underground railroad national historic park is legislation that i have filed so that we can preserve the history of harriet tubman by its historic places for future generations. i'm joined in this effort by senator mikulski, senator schumer and senator gillibrand. the natural landscape on the eastern shore that existed during harriet tubman's day exists today. her homestead, where her father was born, ben ross, exists today. the stork canal where her father worked exists today. where harriet tubman worked as a
slave exists today. adjoining that property is the blackwater wildlife national refuge. so we have the landscape in which the underground railroad was operating to free slaves in the 19th century exists today on the eastern shore of maryland. in auburn, new york, the home at which harriet tubman lived, still exists; the home for the aged that she started still remains, the thompson memorial a.m.e. stkaoe i don't know episcopal church still remains, all are intact, available for preservation. the legislation that we have filed will preserve these places in american history under a national park system for future generations. i urge my colleagues to support this legislation to honor a great american and to preserve our heritage for future generations.
mr. president, i would ask unanimous consent that appearing separately in the record, i might submit a statement related to asthma and the impact of health disparities and just make one brief comment before i make that unanimous consent request. and that is i have pointed out on the floor before that race and ethnic health disparities exist in america. i talked before on the floor about sickle cell disease. the same thing is true with the chronic inflammatory diseases of the body's airway that impede breathing such as asthma. i pointed out before the affordable care act includes a provision that i helped write, establishes the institute for minority health and health disparities at n.i.h. the purpose for including this information about asthma in the record is to point out that we still have challenges that need to be met. i look forward to working with my colleagues on that issue, and i would make that request. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. cardin: mr. president, i
the presiding officer: the senator from new jersey. mr. lautenberg: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that further reading of the roll be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. lautenberg: mr. president, everyone is aware of how deeply concerned the american people are about staying in their homes, about having adequate health care, and about providing education and a better path for the lives of their children. but everyone also knows that there's a group calling themselves the tea party and they're busy trying to eliminate those opportunities. in wisconsin a tea party governor is trying to take away workers collective bargaining rights to be represented. it's like going into a courtroom
without a lawyer. in florida, another tea party governor has killed a critical high-speed rail project by rejecting federal grants o of $2.4 billion to move it along. threw it away. threw it back, $2.4 million. and here in congress, tea party activists have seized control of the republican side of the aisle. and it's a far for the tea party for lots of jobless people and those qualified to study in college but unable to pay. now that they're in power, we see them brewing a toxic tea, a dangerous co concoction that wil bring pain to our children. we know that cutting critical
programs brings sky-high prices later and more illnesses and a less educated society. so we look at the future and we say we've got to invest in our children, our environment and medical research. but every time they hear something that we need, they just say, no. they insist on saying no to 200,000 little kids who now go to head start. head start programs that help them in the earliest stages of life when learning is fun and curiosity abounds. we -- look here. do you see a -- a young child's face in there holding back 218,000 head start kids from learning to learn. they ought to visit these school rooms and be up front with these children and their parents and
just say, sorry, america can't help you. that's not all. look at what they want to do to higher education. we say we must invest in pell grants which makes the dream of college a reality for millions of disadvantaged americans. and they say, sorry, your country captai can't help you. they say no to future employers. too bad. we just don't have enough qualified workers. so maybe the employers then can appropriately say, oh, well, ship the jobs overseas. that's the alternative. is that what we want america to do? they say no even though the unemployment rate is twice as large for those who lack a bachelor's degree as for college graduates. and they're unable to look at a
simple chart like this one. there you see the -- the way the arrow is pointed. the year 2000 over here, the year 2009 over here. rising tuitions, that's what's happening. and, therefore, it tells you how difficult it is for those who don't have the money, the family support financially to be able to take advantage of the pell grants as -- because they want to slash them. they just want to get them off the record as much as they can. here it shows you between $10,000 and $15,000 tuition rate 2000-2001. and i repeat, 2008-2009, we're somewhere close to $28,000 a
year. do we want middle class students to take on more debt to attend college or slam shut the campus doors for them all together? now, i know the value of a government investment in college education firsthand. i came from a a poor working class family. i was a teenager when i enlisted in the army. my father was on his deathbed. he died and he left a 37-year-old widow, my mother, and my 12-year-old sister. and thanks to the g.i. bill i attended college at columbia and later co-founded a company with two other fellows. a company that we started with nothing, mr. president. we had zero in funding. put together a few hundred
bucks. and now that company employs 45,000 employees in 23 countries based in new jersey. jobs in this country. we built the greatest generation out of those education -- the educational opportunities that we had post military. and we were moving america to the top of the economic ladder. government investment in my education made all the difference in my life and now the 45,000 people who work for a.d.p. and now republicans want to take away opportunities like that from young people. people who go into a -- a business, have an education, learn something about how to operate a business, but also learn how we ought to be facing job opportunities and economic development for all in our country.
that's not all the house republicans have in store for our country. we've got to protect women's health, but they won't listen. they want to wipe out funding for title x. title x offers women access to critical health services including cervical cancer test, breast cancer screenings, encouragement to think about family planning and how they're going to get by. they want to -- but these people on the other side, they don't want to hear it. they don't care. they -- they don't care that title x offers women access to the -- to take care of their health at all times. millions of poor women benefit from title x, so killing it will
take care away from those who need it most. title x funding for women's health, house g.o.p., eliminat eliminate $1 billion for women's care. cancel funding for two million breast cancer screenings. how cruel is that in this country of ours? if you've got money, you can take care of yourself. if you don't, too bad. well, that's not the way we want to do it. that's not the way we want to do it on this side of the aisle. they're cutting off resources for 2.2 million cervical cancer screenings. what a horror that is. why did these women -- what did they to deserve higher health risks during their lifetimes? but it get worse. the republicans are also going
after medical research. we say we must invest in finding cures and treatment for millions of children suffering from asthma, diabetes, autism and pediatric cancer to name a few of those health-damaging afflictions. and to these children they say, you know what? if you don't feel good, maybe you should go to an emergency room with your parents. stand in line. too bad. we'd like to help, but we just can't do that. the national institutes of health are making strides in fighting childhood diseases, but the republicans want to reduce n.i.h.'s ability to do their research by taking a billion dollars out of the budget -- their budget. you want to see bravery? look into the eyes of a child struggling with leukemia.
and look into the parents' eyes and you see tears. often no hope. and look what the republicans want to do to our environment. we say we must invest in the clean air act, a law that spares millions of children's suffering from asthma -- asthma. and republicans say, no can do. the -- they say you can't restrict polluters with regulations. it's too cumbersome. and if you don't regulations, for instance, take a look at a bothersome thing that we have in america. they're called red lights. they're cumbersome. they stop the traffic. they don't -- these people don't want regulations, so we ought to get rid of the red lights. let the traffic move. watch yourself when you get to cross streets. maybe they would like to get rid of the air traffic control system. pilots have to wait for some
government bureaucrat to tell them where and when they can fly. what a nerve that is to interfere with these regulations and rules. the republicans also want to let mercury back into our air. mercury, it's brain poisoning for children. and they want us to -- they also want to stop us from restricting soot pollution. look at the picture. soot's ugly when it's pouring from a smoke stack it's even uglier inside a child's lungs. and this is the picture that you see in many places in our -- in our country. some years ago, mr. president, i wrote a law, it's called the right to know. it says to people who live in areas where there's chemical -- chemicals present, either
manufacturing, being stored, transported so that people could know that if they hear a particular alarm that they have to respond to it, report it to the fire department. we had an incident in new jersey some years ago when a group of firemen in elizabeth, new jersey, responded to a chemical fire. and in some instances their protective uniforms melted and that's kind of a situation that we want to avoid. we want people to know what's being stored, what's being released in the air in case of a fire. finally, when we say we've got to clean the water that our children drink. the republican answer is, hey, we can't handle that. it costs too much. so they cut the fund that helps states protect our drinking water from eec, arsenic -- e.
coli or arsenic. the water's not safe for dish washing, no less consumption. so the house g.o.p. keeps on brewing the toxic tea from our -- ask any parent if they want their kids to drink from that teapot. mr. president, they don't. they don't. and we shouldn't make them do it. so we need to gather together, all of us, for things like birthday parties and school graduations and lots of smiles instead of their toxic tea parties. let's -- let's reject the republican tea party priorities to fund our government. when at the say, hey, join us for a cup of toxic tea, we're going to say, no, we have had this long enough and we're not going to stand for it anymore. mr. president, you know very well that what we're looking at
is very constricted budgets. one doesn't have to be an economist or a business executive to know that when there's a financial statement, it comes in two parts. one part of the -- one part is the expenses that you need to operate with. the other is the revenues that permit the companies and the organizations to function. what we're lacking is revenues, and i know that you share that position with me. we've discussed it. why shouldn't people who have the means, who have the good fortune to make lots and lots and lots of money, why shouldn't we show something this afternoon on a chart that had janitors in new york city, some locations,
paying a higher tax rate on their earnings than those who earn a million dollars or more? it's not fair. it's not fair. so if we want to do the right thing, we have to introduce revenues into the budget. we have to restore the cuts that they want to make on the other side. they want -- we want to restore the children's health. we want to make sure that n.i.h. is producing as much as it can and turn america back to a lot more smiles than we've seen. with that, i yield the floor, mr. president. mr. roberts: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from kansas. mr. roberts: mr. president shz it's my understanding -- mr. president, it's my understanding that at 12:15, morning business expired but i'm going to ask unanimous consent that i may proceed as if we were in morning business for 15 minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. roberts: i thank the acting
presiding officer. mr. president, i rise today to once again speak out against what i consider to be, and many consider to be, a regulatory assault on our nation's economy. i've previously discussed my concerns with regulations having a negative impact on our agriculture community. that was just this last week. and then earlier this week, i spoke about the -- what i consider to be the egregious regulation as that are being promulgated by the e.p.a., the environmental protection agency, or what senator grassley calls the end of production agriculture agency. and today i rise to talk about health care regulations that patients and providers have brought to my attention. i've listed a number of these regulations in a letter that i sent earlier today to president obama which i ask to be included in the record at this point. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. roberts: as i have already discussed on the senate floor,
an executive order was issued by the propose january 18 -- it was a good order, i applauded that order -- and it committed all federal agencies to review regulations and then to try to remove any that place unreasonable burdens on our nation's businesses. and/or impact the ability of our economy to grow, to recover. and i agree that in light of our current economic crisis, establishing a regulatory environment that promotes growth and job creation should be the number-one priority for this congress and administration, and i applauded what the president said when he issued the executive order, that there are some that are duplicative, costly, unnecessary, and then he said, and downright stupid, and there was loud applause throughout all farm country, manufacturing, health care, education, you name it.
but after reviewing the executive order, reading the executive order, i want to remind my colleagues that i was left -- and i hope that if you read it, you are left with some larger concerns. specifically, the executive order left open a number of very large loopholes. it was an executive order without teeth. and when i was in kansas over this past last work period, i talked to virtually all of our kansas patients and providers, advocates about the president's executive order and my legislation, which is called "the regulatory reform of our economy act." and i held a stakeholder round-table in topeka, a provider round-table in our state capital, to get feedback from patients and providers on their thoughts that are related to health care reform. and i was not surprised to hear that every representative at that meeting had a concern with regulations, but the sheer volume by my staff assessment
and myself was truly extraordinary. just extraordinary. i was already aware of the regulations, such as those put forth by the department of health and human services, along with the department of labor and treasury that have resulted in the child-only insurance marke markets, effectively -- insurance markets effectively disappearing in 20 states. that's the result of overregulation or overrequirements. and i've already sent letters to the administration detailing my concerns with regulations, such as -- stick with me, now -- first, the 2011 medicare physician fee schedule, final rule, which requires that laboratory requisition forms are signed by the ordering physici physician. this rule could have potentially serious implications on patient care and business practice. second, november 17, 2010, c.m.s., the center for medicare and medicaid services, issued a final rule which, as required by
the new health care law -- and that's the acronym for that, that is ppapa -- conditions payment for home health and hospice services based upon a face-to-face encounter between patients and their physicians or certain nonphysician practitioners prior to certification for home health or hospice services. now, this is resulting on top of about an $11 billion cut to hospice, which is rather incredible, this is resulting in burdensome requirements for our rural home health and hospice patients. for those who need this help the most, this is truly hard to understand. third, antiswitching rules in medicare's competitive bidding program. the acronym for that is c.b.p. there's always an acronym for everything. for durable medical equipment, prosthetics, ordered on the i cans and supplies -- orthotics
and supplies, specifically, the enforcement of the rule in subsequent rounds of the competitive bidding program, but not round one, may compromise beneficiary access to appropriate diabetes testing supplies and leave beneficiaries vulnerable to pressure from suppliers to switch testing systems. i'm just going to try to get rid of the gobbledygook here and say that during the competitive round in regards to d.m.e., durable medical equipment, some of the suppliers didn't even know there was a competitive round. in the metropolitan area of kansas city, there were 424 suppliers. 20 submitted bids this time around. we delayed it one year because it was so onerous. and then the next year came around and c.m.s. selected 20. my question is: what happens to the other 404? and what happened to the people who depended on pharmacists and home health care providers for that walker or their crutch or whatever that they really
needed, or an oxygen tank, for that matter? so we're left with huge holes in the home health care industry and providing d.m.e. equipment. again, i was surprised to hear that every representative at this stakeholder meeting -- and i will tell you that everybody was invited, hospital administrators and doctors, obviously, nurses, pharmacists, hospital -- or ambulance drive drivers, hospice folks -- and first time they ever met at the same table, and i was surprised to hear that every representative at this stakeholder meeting to discuss the impacts of health care reform had concerns with regulation. some of which are buried in the volume of regulations being put out every day and many that defy comprehension. when discussing the president's executive order now and regulations with my constituen constituents, those representing the patient and provider community, the number-one concern that i heard was the fear not of current regulations, which they're trying to really keep up with, but of future
regulations. there's considerable concern with the burden of regulations that have already been issued. i heard time and time again there is an even greater concern with the uncertainty of future regulations, especially those implementing the patient protection and affordable care act, or ppaca, as the acronym says, and their potential to have further and greater impact on jobs and the economy and health care. even greater than the impacts we discussed during the health care reform debate. that was very -- we had meaningful dialogue about that bill. this is like the second health care reform earthquake, not a debate. if you are a health care provider, hang on. additionally, i have heard that the combination of the regulations being issued to implement ppaca or the statute that resulted in an increase in premiums -- let me repeat that -- an increase in people are yurnlz not cost savings -- premiums, not cost savings, for individuals and businesses, which, as you know -- or what we all know results in increased
costs and very, very tough choices. related to this, i'm concerned by reports that i am hearing that staff within the administration have signaled that regulations being issued to implement the ppaca statute already comply with the president's executive order and would not need to be included in a review. does that mean that all the health care regulations pouring out at c.m.s. are not going to be subject to the president's executive order? what is that? this is one of the biggest worries we have all throughout the country in regards to health care, and the president issues an executive order and says let's take a look. do the costs outweigh the benefit? are they duplicative? are they unnecessary? or are they just plain stupid, in his words? but c.m.s. is exempted? health care's exempted? that's unreal. i believe otherwise and this intleef being verified by -- and this belief is being verified by personal story from kansans. in my letter to the president today, i strongly encouraged him to review o all of the regulatis
that have been issued, past, present and future, while considering their impact on our me and jobs. sure, it would be a slow it down. sure, it would be a tough job. it's time. it's time, with the katrina of regulations that are pouring out of the various agencies in washington. understanding this, last month i, along with senator barrasso, senator coats, and with the support of 37 of my senate colleagues -- more, by the way -- have introduced the regulatory responsibility for our economy act, s. 358. i urge my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, i'm going to engage now the next week. you'll get tired of me in terms of the same face-to-face requirements i guess we have to have in terms of hospice. but we'll go face-to-face and i'll try to convince you. my bill moves to codify and strengthen president obama's january 18 executive order that it directs agencies within the administration to review, to modify, to streamline, to expand or repeal those significant
regulatory actions that are, in the president's words, "duplicative, unnecessary, overly burdensome, or would have significant economic impacts on americans." that's president obama, and i give him credit for saying that. i don't give him credit for the loopholes. while i agree in principle with the president that we need to take a serious look at both current and proposed federal regulations, i just don't think his executive order actually does what it purports to do. i have some loopholes listed. i would only say in dodge city, where i come from, that coming close to the truth is coming pretty close but it still ain't the truth. and i think this is where this fits. let's just listen this loophole. the executive order states -- and i want everybody in the senate, if you are listening or if a staff is listening, please provide this to the member -- see if you can figure this one out. in applying these principles, each agency is directed to uses the best available techniques to quantify anticipated present and
future benefits and costs as accurately as possible. that's a good thing. that's a good statement. then it goes on, "where appropriate, however, and permitted li law, each agency my consider and discuss qualitatively" -- and i suppose those discussions are going on right now, as i speak -- and this is the part where i have the most concern and i hope somebody can explain in to me or to anybody -- values that are difficult or impossible to quantify, including equity, human dignity, fairness, and distributeitive impacts." what is that? well, the "wall street journal" captured it very eloquently in their response to the president's editorial that he sent them. the "wall street journal" said, these amorphous concepts are not measurable at all. and they're not. mr. president, on the surface, i feel that this language has the potential to be a very large loophole -- probably is already. i believe that this is the loophole being used to exempt the ppaca regulations from this
review. that's unfortunate. in fact, upon reading and rereading it, it could be better classified, quite frankly, as gobbledygook. my legislation would close -- mask, it got my gobbledygook award of the month here this past month. for march. my legislation would close the loophole and president obama's executive order -- in president obama's executive order -- the loop hoacialtionz i should say -- and -- loopholes, i should say -- and would close other existing loopholes, including those that the administration has been using, or the secretaries of the various agencies have been usi using, to bypass valuable stakeholder input on regulations. the folks that the regulations impact. in fact, i hear often that patients and providers feel they do not have a voice in the regulatory process. more specifically, i hear that a number of regulations are currently being issued through a shortened process which allows limited or no input from those
most affected by the regulations prior to their implementation. that's wrong, and they may result in an even greater confusion and burden which then results in greater costs and economic impact, especially if changes are necessary based on later comments that the administration does receive. it is my understanding that the ppaca rules that have been issued as interim final rules and therefore with limited input and they will probably become final are the national provider identify fire. that's a number that every provider would have to have. read george orwelle for that one. web portal requirements. coverage of children to age 26. we don't have the regs out yet but they're coming. underserved rural communities. that is my attention. grandfathered health plans. pre-existing condition exclusions. preventative services. internal claims/appeal and external review processes.
pre-existing condition insurance plan program. amendment to grandfathered health plans rule. medical loss ratio requirements. that's a bunch of all regulations shortened up. while there may have been instances in which a shortened process was necessary or appropriate, this lengthy list is why passage of my legislation is so critically important. i would ask that the -- ask the presiding officer if i have exceeded my time. if i have, i would like two additional minutes to close. the presiding officer: the senator has 30 seconds. mr. roberts: may i have two additional minutes on top of the 30 and then i can close? the presiding officer: without objection. mr. roberts: i thank the president, the acting presiding officer. in my letter to the president today, i have encouraged the administration to limit the use of this regulatory process and take every available opportunity to get feedback from those who would be most affected by these regulations. that just makes sense.
and allow for ample time to review and consider the feedback prior to implementing the future regulatory priority. we're going to have better regulations if, in fact, you ask folks, hey, is this going to work and they can tweak it, maybe repeal it, who knows? the president himself said that. in addition, i have encouraged the administration to review any comments you have received on these regulations and that have already been issued for any concerns that indicate a potential to further our economic problems and crises. in closing, i invite my friends on both sides of the aisle sign on as a cosponsor of my legislation, realize the immense opportunities it creates for meaningful review and possible revocation of regulations counter to our nation's growth. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor and i note the absence of a quorum. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: will the senator withhold his suggestion
for the absence of a quorum? mr. roberts: i would be delighted to, sir. the presiding officer: the senator from north carolina. mrs. haig an: thank you, mr. president. -- mrs. hagan: thank you, mr. president. i would like to speak about matt cogburn, jr., nominee for the district court in the western district of north carolina. the presiding officer: morning business is now closed. under the previous order, the senate will proceed to executive session to consider the following nomination, which the clerk will report. the clerk: nomination, max oliver cogburn jr. of north carolina to be united states district judge. mrs. hagan: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from north carolina. mrs. hagan: thank you. i would like to talk about judge max cogburn jr., judicial nominee for the united states district court in the western district of north carolina.
judge cogburn was nominated for the second time by president obama on january 5, 2011, and was favorably reported out of the judiciary committee by voice vote on february 3, 2011. it is extremely important to me that north carolina has highly capable representation on our federal courts. judge cogburn is exactly the type of legal mind that we need as a judge on north carolina's western district court. since coming to the u.s. senate, i have worked to increase the number of north carolinians on our federal judiciary. unfortunately, it has turned out to be a rather slow and arduous process, and after months of making the case that north carolina deserves more representation on the fourth circuit last year, judges jim wynn and al diaz were confirmed unanimously by the united states senate. north carolina is better off because judges jim wynn and al
diaz, highly qualified, experienced and fire-minded judges, are now serving on the fourth circuit, and it is my hope that very soon north carolina will have another federal judge with the confirmation of judge cogburn. all of these judges have received bipartisan support, and i am pleased that senator burr has joined with me in recommending these judges. i recommended judge cogburn because of his distinguished record as a swriewrist and attorney in both the public and private sectors. after earning degrees from sanford university cumberland school of law and u.n.c. chapel hill, he entered private practice. judge cogburn has worked in private practice on and off since 1976, covering domestic cases, civil torts and corporate work. judge cogburn also served as an assistant united states attorney from 1980-1992 where he
prosecuted murder cases, drug trafficking, voter fraud and a wide variety of federal crimes. during his time with the u.s. attorney's office, judge cogburn served as the lead attorney on the organized crime and drug task force, as well as the chief assistant u.s. attorney, and from 1995-2004, judge cogburn served as magistrate judge on the united states district court for the western district of north carolina. as a magistrate judge, he ruled on cases involving sexual harassment, racial discrimination and employment, fraud, age discrimination, products liability and medical malpractice. judge cogburn has received the american bar association's highest rating of well qualified. he has the skills and legal experience that this position requires, and i am pleased to speak about judge cogburn's outstanding qualification toss serve on the u.s. district court for the western district of north carolina, and i am
confident that judge cogburn will serve on the bench with clarity and distinction. i have worked steadily to see that he is confirmed quickly, and i look forward to casting that vote shortly. i ask my senate colleagues to join me and senator burr in support of judge cogburn's nomination and vote in favor of his confirmation. mr. president, i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from north carolina. mr. burr: mr. president, i would also like to talk about this historic day and it's historic because we're actually going to confirm max cogburn faster than it took for the nomination to come through. now, today in this austere body, that's an accomplishment, but in large measure, it says a lot about the president's nominee.
max cogburn has been nominated to the federal bench. north carolina's western district. he is an excellent choice, and i believe will be a needed but great addition to the court. the cogburn family roots are in western north carolina's mountains, and they run, mr. president, deep. it's an impressive family history, but max has made a name for himself in his legal career, his public service, assistant u.s. attorney, chief assistant u.s. attorney, magistrate judge and in private practice. in addition to his legal career, which certainly qualifies him for the bench in his own right, the cogburns' other business can't help but be a benefit. you see, he and his family run a dude ranch outside of asheville, north carolina. i want to thank the members of the senate judiciary committee,
as i said, for acting so quickly on this nomination. nominees to the federal bench are bestowed with a high honor, but also a high amount of uncertainty and stress as they and their families go through a sometimes never-ending process. i'm grateful that this process -- and -- process has been relatively short and sweet for max. he was nominated in may of 2010, had his hearings during the lame duck and was reported out in december, still during the lame duck. i'm sorry that this body missed the opportunity at that time to finalize his confirmation. he didn't get a vote in the last congress, but that, of course, isn't unusual for a nominee of either party who were reported by the committee as late in the process. he was reported out again in february and is actually getting a vote in less time, as i said, than it took the white house to nominate him, especially following the departure and the
retirement of judge thornburgh. mr. president, i appreciate the judiciary's commitment to move quickly and the action to move quickly. i join my colleague, senator hagan, in encouraging all of our colleagues to unanimously support this appointment to the federal bench, and i might say in conclusion, mr. president, the underlying reason max cogburn should get the overwhelming support of all the members of the united states senate and should be the newest member of our court in the western district is max cogburn is a good man. he comes from good stock, but on his own, he's a good man and a great american, and today he deserves this house to unanimously support this nomination. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. lieberman: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent to speak as if in morning business, with the understanding that i will
yield the floor if anyone comes to the floor to speak on the cogburn nomination. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. lieberman: i thank the chair. mr. president, i rise to speak in support of a bipartisan resolution that has been introduced by our colleague, senator durbin, and that i'm proud to be a cosponsor of which concerns the situation in the country of byelorussia. as the winds of democratic change have been sweeping now across north affect and the -- north africa and the middle east, ousting rulers who have been long entrenched there, it is important for us to remember that there still is one remaining dictatorship in europe, and that is in the country of byelorussia. in the 20 years since the fall of the soviet union, byelorussia's neighbors to the north and west have become successful, prosperous democracies, but tragically, while poland, lithuania and latvia have broken the chains of tyranny and joined the flagship institutions of the euroatlantic
world, nato and the european union, byelorussia and its people have been left behind, held behind by its despotic ruler alexander luckashenko who has ruled his country in rigged elections for nearly two decades. some in the united states and europe had hoped in recent years that luckashenko might be prepared to open up byelorussia and change his ways. these hopes, however, came to an abrupt end on december 19 of last year when byelorussia held presidential elections, and thousands -- as it quickly became clear that the vote in those elections was neither free nor fair, thousands of byelorussian people took to the streets of minsk in protest and the luckashenko regime responded with violence and brutality. this resolution would put the united states senate on record
in response to the crackdown launched in byelorussia on december 19, a crackdown, i would add, mr. president, that continues in significant ways to this day. more than 600 people were swept up by byelorussian security forces on election day and in its immediate aftermath. among them, journalists, civil society representatives, political activists and several opposition presidential candidates. it's hard to believe that this kind of behavior still exists in this world today. the detained continue to be denied access to family, lawyers, medical treatment and open legal proceedings. while their really tiffs and attorneys endure harassment by luckashenko security forces. this resolution will do several significant things. first, it will send a strong and clear message to luckashenko himself that his actions are
unacceptable and will carry significant costs. it tells him that we do not consider the december 19 election to be legitimate and that he is therefore not the legitimately elected leader of byelorussia and that there should be new elections that are free, fair and that meet international standards. i would add, mr. president, that the european parliament passed a resolution not long ago that says precisely the same thing that i have just said here in the united states senate. perhaps even more importantly, this resolution will send a message to the people of belarus, who are struggling to secure their fundamental freedoms. it tells the dissidents there that we have not and will not forget them or their cause. that we remember their names, in fact, and we'll stand in solidarity with them until they achieve their goal, which is a free and democratic belarus.
last month senator mccain and i and others traveled to vilni vilnius, lithuania, where we met with students and opposition leaders. i can tell you it was an extremely powerful experience for all of us. we heard directly from them about the real estate ppression take -- the repression taking place in their home country. the substance of the resolution, senator durbin has written and submitted with cosponsorship by several you reflects what the bell rue sans with met with told us as we will as what we heard from other dissidents from that country here in washington. the resolution specifically calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners in belarus. it also urges a tightening of the sanctions against lukashenka, and we are urging the obama administration to offer the strongest possible
material and technical support for belarus and civil society, and that includes of course the political opposition. this resolution is broadly bipartisan in its sponsorship and reflects what i think is a wide consensus here in the senate about the situation in belarus today. i know that there are some who may lookality the resolution and says it's merely symbolic -- look at the resolution and says it's merely symbolic, who say there'sing in we can do to help the people who are living such repressed and unfree lives in belarus and that we should simply accept the reality of the lukashenka dictatorship after all these years. but, if the historic events in tunisia and egypt have taught us anything, it is that the united states does best when we stand in our foreign policy with our values and with the people who share them. and that what happen to be even the most impregnable regimes can
fall with remarkable speed. obviously i cannot say exactly when belarus will be free, but i have no doubt that someday it will be free. i'm confident that the future of belarus belongs not to lukashenka and his cronies but to the people of that great country, to the dissidents who are in jail, to the students we met in vilnius last month, to the civil society activists who are being harassed by the k.g.b. as we speak, it belongs to the people in belarus who want a future of democracy and economic opportunity, not soviet-style repression. this resolution put together, i say, with thanks by senator durbin, the senate, on the side of the people of belarus and against the luke schenck dough regime that is -- the lukashenka regime that is oppressing them. i hope that we can come together and swiftly pass this bipartisan
measure. i thank the chair. i yield the floor, and i would yield to the senator from iowa. the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: soon we'll be voting on another nominee for district court. we continue our rapid pace in which the senate has been confirming president obama's judicial nominees. this vote will mark the 11th judicial nominee to be confirmed this congress. that's more than double the number confirmed in the 108th congress, which only saw five confirmations at this point. obviously actions speak louder than words. so are far our actions have had concrete results. the judiciary committee met this morning and reported six more judicial nominees. that puts the total at 22 nominees reported favorably so
far. we continue to hold hearings every two weeks and have heard from 31 nominees currently pending before the senate. as i have said in the past, we will continue to move consensus nominees through the confirmation process. however, we will continue to do our due diligence in evaluating the nominees. what we will not do is put quantity confirmed over quality confirmed. these lifetime appointments are too important to the federal judiciary and the american people to allow rubber-stamping. just this past monday, the senate confirmed three district court judges. in his statement, for the record, the chairman of the committee, senator leahy stated -- quote -- "nearly one out of every eight federal judgeships is vacant. this puts at serious risk the ability of all americans to have a fair hearing in court."
end of quote. however, what the chairman neglected to mention is tha thet that president obama has not put forth a nominee for every vacancy the court currently faces. in fact, of the 95 judicial vacancies, the senate only has 45 nominees. that's 53% of the vacancies without a nominee from the white house. today we vote on a nominee to sit on the western district of north carolina. while this is an important vacancy, a vacancy we need to fill, it is not a judicial emergency. however, there is a judicial emergency in the eastern district of north carolina. that seat, which has been vacant since 2005, does not have a nominee currently pending. president bush nominated thomas alvin farr to that seat twice, but he was nerch afforded a --
never a forded a hearing, let alone an up-or-down vote. i'm happy that this side of the aisle is not repeating the same regrettable treating -- treatment that mr. farr received. with regard to mr. cogburn, the nominee we'll be voting on, the american bar association has rated him majority well-qualified, minority qualified. he received his b.a. from the university of north carolina at chapel hill and juris doctorate from the cumberland school of law. mr. cogburn has practiced law in many capacities. through his work in private practice, he has worked on a wide range of issues, including criminal litigation, personal injury, civil litigation, and a significant amount of mediation. as an assistant u.s. attorney for over a decade, mr. cogburn
gained substantial appellate experience. while there, he also served as drug task force attorney and chief assistant u.s. attorney. mr. cogburn also holds judicial experience. he was appointed to serve an eight-year term as a u.s. magistrate judge for the u.s. district court for western district of north carolina. after a careful evaluation, the judiciary committee reported this fine nominee by voice vote on february 3, 2011. i congratulate mr. cogburn and his family on this important lifetime appointment and his willingness to continue in public service. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from nevada. mr. ensign: i ask that the quorum call being dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. ensign: i ask that all tienl yielded back and the vote start. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. ensign: i ask for the yeas and nays. the presiding officer: is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. there is. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
the presiding officer: any senators wishing to vote or change their vote? if not, confirmation of max oliver cogburn jr. is confirmed 96-0. under the previous order the motion to reconsider is considered made and laid upon the table. the president shall be immediately notified of the senate's action and the senate shall resume legislative senate. mr. reid: i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to a period of morning business senators allowed to speak up to 10 minutes each during that period of time. there will be no roll call votes this week.
a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from georgia. a senator: madam president, i rise to acknowledge an anniversary tomorrow. the presiding officer: excuse me. we need -- we have a quorum. mr. isakson: i would ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. the senator from georgia. mr. isakson: thank you, madam chairman. i rise today to acknowledge the second anniversary of a tragic event that happened on march 11, 2009, in the nation of benin in africa. on that tragic day, a young lady by the name of kate pouzy was tragically murdered in her sleep in her house at night. kate pouzy was a volunteer from georgia from the peace corps who went to benin with all the dreams and hopes and aspirations of the program that john kennedy created over a half century ago.
she had served there for months. she was teaching young african children, she was sharing wisdom, she was sharing knowledge and she was sharing her love for mankind and she was representing the united states in the way that the peace corps intended it. unfortunately, her life was lost. i didn't know kate pouzy before her death. i only know her after her death. but i know her through her parents, through her schoolmates and through her fellow peace corps volunteers in africa who told me the story of kate pouzy, and also tragically stories of other volunteers to the peace corps that have lost their lives or have sacrificed in the service of our country. tomorrow night at 6:30 on the steps of the capitol, there will be a candlelight vigil acknowledging this anniversary of the second year of the death of kate pouzy. kate's mother will be here as well as peace corps volunteers as well as people from the peace corps itself. it will be a solemn moment but it will also be a very sacred moment. madam president, as the ranking
member of the africa subcommittee, i have traveled to africa on a number of occasions and i have been in a number of african countries, and on each visit i go to, i arrange either a breakfast or a lunch where i host the peace corps volunteers from the united states in that country. without exception and in every case, these are the finest of americans. a lot of people don't understand the peace corps as much as they should. a lot of people think it's a young, idealistic kids, and we do have a lot of young kids that volunteer their time and go. just two years ago when i was in tanzania, i found a couple 73 and 72 years old who in their retirement decided they want to give back and help their country and serve mankind. they volunteered to go to tanzania and build a library where there wasn't even a library, a book or a school, and they did it. in kenya, i went and visited with young people who went to kenya to help carry the message of democracy, help share in the terrible slum, the promise and
hope of education, of good nutrition, of hard work and of democracy. we as a country are blessed to have men and women who serve us in many capacities, those who may serve in the house and the senate here, those who serve in the branches of the military overseas in harm's way, but equal to their service is the service of our peace corps volunteers. kate pouzy was the example of what those peace corps volunteers do at its height. when i attended her funeral, i sat and listened for over two hours to her fellow volunteers, her former classmates from her high school tell about the kate pouzy they knew, the academic genius, the committed volunteer, the person who loved life and loved people and wanted to share that love wherever she could. the volunteers in benin told of her countless sacrifices to help young people and children in that troubled land and that difficult country understand better their life's future and not look to poverty as a lifetime of shackles but look to opportunity as a lifetime of
hope. so tomorrow night when the village takes -- when the vigil takes place on the steps of the capitol, i will not be here, unfortunately, but i will be saying a special prayer for the life of kate pouzy, for her family and for what she and all volunteers who have sacrificed in the peace corps have done for the united states of america and better than that for mankind. madam president, we have many great people to be thankful for in this world, but tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. on the steps of the capitol, there will be a pause to recognize the life, the legacy and the sacrifice of kate pouzy, and i will be there in spirit and i will be with her in prayer. madam president, i yield back and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
the presiding officer: without objection. mr. inouye: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator is recognized. mr. inouye: today, our nation faces a very difficult political landscape when it comes to addressing the major challenges to our country, such as unemployment and the deficit. the american public is demanding that the house and senate work with the president to address these concerns. i believe the american people's understandable and growing concern over the national debt is shared by every member of this body, but in order for the congress to address our fiscal crisis, we must fix our broken budget process. today with fiscal year 2011 nearly halfway, as a result of the congress' inability to finish its work, the federal government is still operating on
stop-gap funding designed to avert a government shutdown. and, madam president, this is no way to govern. continuing resolutions make it difficult for federal agencies to perform their duties. as the secretary of defense, mr. gates, has stated very clearly, "operating under a c.r. places a great burden on the department of defense." the same can be said for every federal agency. our failure to act responsibly makes the everyday functioning of government more difficult and less responsive to the needs of the american people. moreover, continuing resolutions make a mockery of our constitutional responsibility to allocate taxpayer funding wisely putting the country on budgetary
autopilot is simply unacceptable. it is well past the time to cast aside the blistering campaign rhetoric of the fall and find the need to compromise. madam president, many new members of this body were elected on the promise of a return to fiscal responsibility. i would suggest that returning to regular order in our budget process is a necessary component to achieve this goal. the appropriations committee produces 12 individual bipartisan spending bills, but when the congress fails to act on them through regular order, we wind up with a trillion dollar omnibus bill or trillion dollar continuing resolution that cedes the power of the purse to the executive branch. neither the most liberal nor the
most conservative member of this body should prefer an omnibus or c.r. over the regular order in our budget process. several weeks ago, i had the opportunity to sit down with the new chairman of the house appropriations committee, congressman hal rogers of kentucky, to congratulate him on his new position. during our discussion, we both agreed that the congress needs to reestablish regular order in the appropriations process. both chambers need to pass its bills and allow us to work out our differences in conference. madam president, i believe that if we adopt this approach, we can do our part to help this nation regain its economic health. the first step in the process is the adoption of a budget, to provide the framework for
appropriations bills. the house must step up to the plate with a budget that is workable. it cannot hide behind vague rhetoric and be a temporary spending caps. it should not insist upon irrational cuts that would devastate the everyday lives of the american people. likewise, it is imperative that the senate do its part in moving a budget through a responsible and regular order process, including the timely adoption of a budget resolution. if a budget resolution is not adopted by early may, the appropriations process is delayed every week of delay further diminishes our ability to finish our work prior to the end of the fiscal year.
in recent years of, appropriations bills have been held hostage as members offered amendments knowing that they would not pass or the time needed to complete 12 free standing bills slipped away and by september we had abandoned any hope of finishing all 12 bills, as the calendar simply did not give us enough time. we democrats must recognize that regular order cannot exist without bipartisan cooperation. last year, despite the lacks of a budget resolution, the committee completed almost awful its work -- almost all of its work completing the appropriations bills in a timely manner. however, gridlock on the senate floor eliminated any further process. if a more open amendment process
for relevant amendments will enable these bills to move forward, we should be open to such an approach, even if that means taking some uncomfortable votes. this chamber is split 53-47. both sides need to give a little bit and in so doing it is my hope that we can get the bipartisan appropriations process back on track. certainly, no member of this body wants to explain to his or her constituents why we have failed yet again to responsibly fund the government, or ceded our constitutional authority to the administration, or even why we were unable to work together responsibly to avoid disastrous government shutdown. madam president, we must find a way to accomplish the task that the constitution has assigned to
us. to do this, we need a budget resolution. we need the house to send over appropriations bills in a timely fashion. we need floor time, and we need a willingness to vote on amendments. without these four things, there is no doubt in my mind that i'll be standing in this chamber in late september yet again seeking passage of a continuing resolution in order to avoid shutting down the government. madam president, the house and the senate need to find a way to work together to pass our bills under the regular order. to send them to the president, this is the only way we can restore discipline to the budget process. it is the only way we can maintain our constitutional
responsibility to determine our taxpayers' dollars are spent. and, madam president, it is truly the only way we can avoid repealing the catch-all spending bills that none of us want. i yield the floor. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
96-0. some comments earlier today by majority leader reid on spending issues after the senate yesterday failed to pass either the house-passed bill, h.r. 1, or the democratic alternative, and negotiations will continue off the floor as the continuing resolution, the temporary spending bill, ends a week from tomorrow. the hill reports today that house republicans are drafting a three week measure that will cut another $6 billion in spending. over in the house today, they're working on a bill that would eliminate a federal home mortgage program, the associate press reporting republicans are ignoring a white house veto threat and pushing a bill through aimed at eliminating a program aimed at helping people refinance homes that are worth less than they paid for them. they'll take a vote shortly on that. in fact, that is underway now, procedural vote's underway now in the u.s. house. also tomorrow the house will take up a similar bill dealing with mortgage support programs, the house live tomorrow
beginning at 9:00 eastern and house coverage on c-span. we're promoting the hearing later on this evening with secretary clinton who testified today on the secretary -- on the state department budget. she will be traveling to egypt and tunisia next week. she will also meet with members of libya's opposition. quorum call:
the presiding officer: the senator from michigan is recognized. mr. levin: madam president, i ask that further proceedings under the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. levin: yesterday the senate rejected two bills to provide funding for the rest of this fiscal year and i voted against both bills and i want to explain why and to explain what i believe is the only course open to us if we're to be serious
about reducing the budget deficit. it was a victory for the american people when the senate voted overlemmingly to reject the bill sent to us by the house. house republicans who tell us they want to reduce the deficit and propose a cure that does little to cure our budget disease and does great damage to our patience in the mean time. it cuts in nondiscretionary spending and in that area alone. simple math suggests that we cannot meaningful reduce the deficit in this manner. these programs represent less than 15% of the total budget. not surprisingly, then, the republican proposal would reduce our projected budget deficit this year by only a token amount. as a matter of fact, it would reduce our budget deficit this year by less than 1%. so the republican plan fails the test of seriousness about the deficit but it would have done
significant damage to programs that americans depend on. it would have cut more than a billion dollars from head start. it would have eliminated early childhood education programs for more than 200,000 american children. it would have cut or eliminated pell grants for hundreds of thousands of college students. it would have cut $61 million from the budget request for th the -- for food inspections, despite the fact that thousands of americans every year suffer from foodborne illnesses. it would have cut a billion dollars from women's, infant and children's program, weag ening a program that -- weakening a program that helps poor families put food on the table t. would have cut $180 million from the securities and exchange commission, and more than a hundred billion dollars from the commodities future trading commission. those are the regulators, those are the cops that we need on the beat to make sure that we oversee the financial markets that recently devastated our economy. it would have cut nearly $290 million from the veterans administration's efforts to
provide better service to our veterans. the house budget would have cut a billion dollars in funding for community health centers, eliminating primary care for millions of americans. that proposal of the house of representatives, which we soundly defeated here yesterday, would have cut $550 million from the national science foundation research, another billion-plus from the department of energy research, almost $900 billion from our support for renewable energy resources and energy conservation. and all that would make us even more dependent than we now are on foreign oil. the republican proposal from the house would have cut $2 billion from clean water programs and would have put public health at risk and would have cut $250 million from the great lakes restoration efforts. $120 million from the president's request would have been cut and $350 million from the -- from the 2010 level from border security efforts.
now, that's the very issue, border security, which republicans, including the speaker of the house, have called their number-one priority. yet their budget would have cut more than $350 million from the 2010 level for border security. now, we need to make spending cuts and i think all of us know that. we've got to reduce and remove redundancy and inefficiency in the government, and it exists. the president has proposed cuts. we need to seek more cuts and we need act. but the cuts that the republicans proposed aren't about increasing efficiency. their proposal, as senator manchin pointed out yesterday -- quote -- "blindly hacks the budget with no sense of our priorities or of our values as a country." so we wisely rejected that path. we also rejected a second proposal and i voted against that one as well. i rejected it because, while it avoided the blind hacking at the budget in which the house
republicans engaged, it focused solely on cuts in non-defense discretionary spending. we had two choices yesterday: draconian cuts or more targeted cuts? but, madam president, those are not the only two choices available to us. mr. levin: we can choose to seriously address our budget deficit by acknowledging that it cannot be significantly reduced until we understand that increased revenue as well as spending cuts is part of the solution. now, how can we raise additional revenue without slowing the economy? we can end the excessive tax cuts for upper-income taxpayers that president bush put in pla place. we can close tax loopholes that not only drain the treasury but send american jobs abroad, to boot. the cost to the government to continue that upper bracket income tax cut president bush was able to obtain is about
$30 billion a year. ending that $30 billion tax cut, which goes to roughly 2% of americans at the very top -- those earning more than $200,0 $200,000 -- could allow us to avoid the drastic cuts in important programs that i've mentioned and much more beside. increasing revenue makes sense not only from a deficit-reduction perspective. it is also fair. those at the top income-wise have done very well as a group in recent decade. while incomes for most americans have stagnated. to be specific, the top 1% of all income earners has more than doubled their share of total u.s. income in the last few decades from 8.2% in 1980 to 17.7% in 2008.
meanwhile, median household income -- the income of a typical american family -- is now 5% lower than it was in the late 1990's. to eliminate programs that are critically important to working families while maintaining tax cuts for those whose incomes have soared would be a grave injustice. now, there's also other revenues that we can look to if we're truly serious about deficit reduction. there are a number of tax loopholes that we can close. for example, we should not continue to give corporations a tax deduction when they send american jobs overseas. we should not allow corporations and wealthy individuals to avoid u.s. taxes by hiding assets and income in offshore tax havens. we should not allow hedge fund managers to ernie normous incomes -- earn enormous incomes and yet pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries pay. the american people are looking
to us. they're concerned about the size of the deficit and the effect that it might have on future generations, but they also reject the notion that draconian cuts, cuts that fall hardest on working families, are the answer. and they see the wisdom and the fairness in making sure that all americans share in the sacrifices that will be required as we seek to reduce our deficit. now, we have an opportunity now to show the american people that we understand too. we can craft a plan now that preserves vital programs, that makes prioritized and necessary cuts in spending, but also a plan that recognizes the need for comprehensive approaches that address revenue as well as spending. and in the coming days, madam president, we need to adopt such a comprehensive approach. madam president, i yield the floor.
mr. franken: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota is recognized. mr. franken: madam president, i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. franken: thank you. madam president, i'd like to tell you about a teenager -- i think you know about just inauburg from our -- i know you think about justin auburg from our home state of minnesota. yesterday should have been justin's 16th birthday. justin was a kind young, friendly and cheerful, a budding composer, but he was also the target for bullies at his high school. who targeted him because he was different, because he was gay.
i never had the opportunity to meet justin. his family lost him to suicide last summer. you know that. but you and i have been privileged to meet his mother, tammy. i've been privileged to meet her a few times. she's incredible. she's been speaking out to protect other kids. because, unfortunately, there are a lot of other kids out there struggling to get through school as they suffer from bullying, from harassment ask discrimination at their public schools. nine out of ten lgbt students are harassed or bullied or taunted in school, and this harassment deprives them of an equal education. they are more likely to skip school. they are less likely to perform well academically.
and they're more likely to drop out before they graduate from high school. and in some tragic cases like justin's, the harassment of lgbt students can even lead to suicide. we have seen this in all too many cases all over the country because, sadly, this problem is so much broader than justin. more than a third -- more than a third -- of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth have made a suicide attempt. more than a third. that is horrifying beyond belief to me. we are failing these kids, and that is why i, along with 29 of
my senate colleagues, including the presiding officer, have reintroduced the student nondiscrimination act today. while federal civil rights laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, disability, and national origin, they do not explicitly cover sexual origin or gender identification. as a result, parents of lgbt students have limited legal recourse when schools fail to protect their children from harassment and bullying. you might be wondering why i'm mentioning bullying and discrimination in the same breath. it's simple. when a school acts to protect
kids with disabilities from bullying but looks the other way when lgbt kids are harassed by their peers, that is discrimination. when school staff members participate in or encourage bullying of lgbt youth, that is discrimination. when a principal excuses a bully who torments an lgbt kid with "boys will be boys," this is discrimination. and it needs to stop. it needs to stop before more kids are hurt. the student nondiscrimination act would prohibit discrimination and harassment in public schools based on sexual orientation